Liberty of the Seas 8/11 through 8/18
By no means did we manage to do or even see everything on the ship, so I'm going to limit my review to the things we actually did get to experience. I also want to make a brief mention about our experience coming and going through Miami International and our pre-cruise hotel stay because that might benefit someone else's planning.
I was traveling with my husband and my two sons (14 and 12). We'd all built up the fun we were going to have on this trip to a level that was probably almost impossible to fulfill. We were hit with some disappointments and frustrations early on that challenged us to keep our good attitudes.
Flying into Miami from Houston on Friday afternoon with 6 pieces of checked luggage, we managed to claim only 5 pieces. The representative from Continental said that they'd held my youngest son's luggage for "security reasons." I was just glad that we'd flown in a day early and had some time to shop for him if it didn't show up. The representative swore that it would be at our hotel that evening.
We took a taxi from MIA to the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay. It had gotten excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. I will be writing my own good review for the hotel there shortly. They didn't give us any grief at check in about having our kids in a double and us in a king. I'd been a little worried that they'd make a big deal about not having an adult in one of the rooms, but they ignored it. Our rooms were a little small, but they were clean and had lovely linens and comfy beds. Both of the rooms had a nice view, but the boys really scored with a view of the cruise ships. We ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant. I can't remember what it was called, but it had a nice view of their marina and the food was passable hotel food. I had a good salad and my husband enjoyed his burger. Any time he can get one that's not burnt to a crisp, he's happy. My older son had pasta and thought it was good. I can't remember what my younger son ate, but he would have complained - loudly - if it had been bad.
I called the customer service number about the missing bag after dinner. The representative I spoke with there knew nothing about a "security check"... He said the bag had been sent to Denver by mistake... then back to Houston...and that it should be back at our hotel in Miami by 2 a.m. or so!! I called down to the valets and requested that they phone my room if our missing suitcase showed up... no matter what the time. My phone rang at about 3 a.m. Our missing suitcase was safe and sound. It would have been a very stressful morning of shopping to replace all those clothes if it hadn't showed. My younger son didn't want to run around naked for a week... and he certainly didn't want to miss getting dressed up for formal night! ?
We grabbed another taxi from the hotel to the port. I'm so glad that we took a cab instead of having a transfer. There must have been a hundred people or more waiting to pile into busses to go to the port waiting in the hotel lobby. We were able to walk right out and get in a taxi. The taxi ride was a little scary though. The driver never spoke the entire time. Creepy! We arrived at the cruise ship terminal at about 11:30 a.m. We breezed through security... in spite of me being the only one of the four of us with a passport and mine being expired! Nobody ever asked to see the notarized letter of permission from my ex-husband allowing the kids to travel. Nobody asked to see my divorce decree that proved I had custody of the kids. Nobody asked to see my marriage certificate to my husband (that links my name change). I was glad I had all this stuff, but I'd be curious to know how many other people bring it and don't need it.
We waited in the terminal for about 30 minutes... then they allowed us to get on the ship. Our cabins would not be ready until 1 p.m. Since all we had was a little, tiny map, it was going to take us about that long to find the cabins anyway! We wandered around... in awe of the sheer immensity of our surroundings. The only thing I can compare the Liberty to is if anybody has ever been in some of the nicer casino/hotels in Vegas...like Mandalay Bay... or the BELLAGIO.... Now imagine if they could FLOAT!!! There you go... now you've got an idea of what being on this ship is like. Genesis Class?!?!? That's going to defy all the laws of physics as I understand them!
Once we got our bearings, we found the dining room and confirmed that we had a table for just the four of us. Our table was in the Michelangelo dining room...second seating...#458. Table #458 is not in a primo location. It is right near the entrance of the dining room. It is a "see and be seen" location. I seriously considered asking to change it, but I was so glad to have the four-top, I decided not to bother. I ended up being glad we didn't. Our waitress (Orisha) and her assistant (Maria) were some of the brightest points on our cruise. I cried when I told them goodbye.
There is something about being on the water that causes me to lose my sense of time. I'm not going to even try to "day by day" the rest of this review... please bear with me. If I'm boring or confusing you, by all means... stop reading! ?
We ate breakfast in the main dining room several times. We stopped because we did not enjoy being seated with other guests and having to make small talk. There was one morning in particular that I found completely odd. We were seated with a couple about our age with two toddlers. The husband and wife sat separated by one of their children. The wife engaged us in conversation throughout breakfast. The husband engaged a woman at the other end of the table in conversation throughout breakfast. Not once...did the husband and wife speak to each other. Not once...was I able to speak to my husband without being interrupted. It was sad and mildly offensive. It was the last time we ate breakfast in the dining room. Lunches were much the same.
The Windjammer was a nightmare. I think that RCCL would better serve their clientele if they made it a 24/7 venue. The limited hours cause too much of a traffic jam. I found it nightmarish and there were days that I chose to skip a meal instead of braving the queues. We had several lunches at Sorrentos. The pizza by the slice is pretty decent. You can custom order a whole fresh pie and that is much better. We managed to show up there at off times and nearly always had the whole place to ourselves.
We did not bother with Johnny Rockets. We've eaten at a land based one near our home and didn't think that it was worth $3.95. I doubt we would have eaten there if it had been free.
We had originally planned to go to Chops and Portofinos... however, after meeting our wait staff in the main dining room, we blew it off. We eat out at very nice restaurants all the time at home, so we don't feel like we missed out on anything. Orisha and Maria in the main dining room were fabulous servers and missing a meal with them would have been a loss.
DINNERS... Our table afforded us a very of all the comings and goings into the Michelangelo dining room. We dressed according to "suggested" standards. A very large portion of the other people we saw did NOT. We saw jeans, shorts, tank tops, flip-flops (the cheap rubber kind), baseball hats, denim OVERALLS, an adult woman wearing pajama bottoms and a bikini top!!... and so on. A lot of this was on formal night... including the bikini top lady. There were many people that were dressed appropriately, but we weren't in the majority. I'm not a member of the fashion police by any means, but even my children were astounded.
The food was adequate and none of us ever left hungry. I can't think of anything that was outstanding, but nothing was awful (with the exception of the French onion soup and the hard as a rock pork chop). My younger son was sad that they didn't serve the escargot in shell. I was disappointed that the bread at our seating (2nd) was usually cold and leaning towards stale. It seemed obvious that they prepared it ahead of time for the first seating and we got the leftovers.
We don't drink alcohol. (It's not that we're teetotalers... it's just not our thing.) We did purchase four coke cards and they were worth every dime. I couldn't even count how many Shirley Temples my kids would go through at dinner and DH and I were pounding down the diet Cokes.
STATEROOMS... We had balcony cabin #7688 and our kids had the inside #7689 directly across the hall from us. We were on the "Library" deck. We all made use of the library. I like the honor system for checking out books and they had a fair selection of my drug of choice (travel guides).
Our cabins had adequate storage. We ended up with extra hangers, so I was glad I hadn't packed any. I've heard a lot of people rave about the new beds and linens. I was looking forward to being really comfortable. Personally, I was NOT impressed. The linens were okay. The pillows are hard and lumpy. I thought the duvet was very heavy for the Caribbean. I asked our cabin steward (Charles) repeatedly for an extra, light blanket... to no avail. The beds were better than the ones on the Island Princess, but not by much. I guess I'm spoiled from having a Tempurpedic at home. We did ask for and receive (late on the second day) bath robes... which is nice because the bath towels are smallish. I've seen better toiletries supplied in roadside motels. I realize that they are trying to be "green"... but that bar soap is ridiculous.
The towel animals were cute. I especially loved the little man... I'd never seen that one before. I wanted to go to the class where they teach you how to make them, but it overlapped with watching my younger son in the "Teen Rock Wall Speed Climb Competition"... I had to pick a priority. Towel animals lost... my son won the gold metal! ?
The only thing that happened in our cabin that really frustrated me (besides not getting the blanket) was disembarkation morning. We had everything packed and ready to go sitting on our couch at 6:30 a.m. We didn't need to be out of our room until 7. We ran down to the WJ to grab some coffee and when we came back up to our room, our bed had been stripped and the door was wide open with Charles nowhere in site. All of our most important luggage...my purse, travel documents, medication, camera, etc. was sitting out in plain view of any passer by. I think that it should have been obvious that we weren't quite done with our room yet and the door should have been shut. Maybe he wasn't happy with the EXTRA money we gave him in addition to the suggested gratuities?? Maybe it was just total irresponsibility. I don't know. It made me mad though.
ENTERTAINMENT.... Did I mention we all used the library? ? We're a pretty low key family. I can't help anybody with bars or casinos. They were really smokey and it was hard to even walk nearby. I wouldn't have minded dropping a quarter or two in a slot machine, but I couldn't hold my breath long enough to do it. We saw both comedians.... Rodney Johnson and the magic guy. Rodney Johnson was fantastic. If he comes to our hometown, we're there. My DH had the pleasure of playing a bunch of games of 3 on 3 basketball with him too. He said he's a great player and an even better trash talker. The magic guy they had on the last night was pretty funny, but I wouldn't pay to go see him again.
The only production show we saw was "In the Air"...I know that everyone said to get tickets to the ice skating show, but we missed our chance to wait in line so we didn't get to see it. "In the Air" was one of the worst shows I've ever seen. I'm sorry if you thought it was great. I thought it was horrible... funny in spots, but horrible. I can't believe that those dancers get to do that show week in and week out and they can't synchronize - AT ALL! (Don't bash me for not knowing what I'm talking about. My Mother is a professional choreographer. I KNOW DANCE! It was BAD!) Maybe we were the only people in the audience that thought the "Mermaids in Drag" were hysterical... because we were cracking up and nobody else was. Does anybody know if that was supposed to be a joke? Surely it was! I don't know if the other show was better. We didn't bother finding out.
No amount of arm twisting could get my kids to participate in any of the 12 - 14 year old Adventure Ocean activities. Nearly everything that was planned for them was "cheesy"... The couple of things that they did want to participate in didn't happen. They showed up to "Casino Night" in hopes of whipping some booty playing Texas hold'em. Nobody else showed up... not even counselors. The night that was supposed to be 12 - 14 year olds ONLY on the flow rider ended up being 12 - 17 year olds instead. The 15 to 17 year olds took over the show and ruined it for the younger kids. IMHO this age group gets the **** end of the stick. My older son (14) ended up spending most of his time in the gym (nobody ever questioned his age - bash away for me breaking the "rule")... my younger son spent most of his time on the rockwall and the flowrider.
I thought that the hours for the flowrider and the rockwall were a little sparse. The lines on the flowrider were ridiculous and many people cut in line over and over again. The rockwall wasn't nearly as bad. The staff for these activities is great overall. Tell Allison from Texas that we say "Hey!"
Ports... I'm a retired scuba diving instructor, so the only place on this itinerary that I'd not been to was Labadee. My family had not been to any of these ports. My DH has had some revelations post cruise: a: It's HOT in the Caribbean in the summer! b: The ports that we love (in our opinion) are more suited to land based vacations. I have an "I told you so!" that I can live off of for DECADES!! LOL!
Labadee... (RCCL's Disney)... What have they done to this lovely island?? The first thing I noticed when we pulling in was the tremendous amount of sand and silt our ship was kicking up. I knew, immediately, that the reefs were going to be in bad shape. We were dumb enough to lug our snorkeling gear off the ship anyway. We picked up our mandatory snorkeling vests at the "snorkeling shack," and hit the water. It was WORSE than I'd feared... a wasteland. I saw tons of trash... including used feminine hygiene products. Ewww! There were a few sickly sea fans, some turtle grass, and the most people phobic puffers I've ever encountered. They must be tortured day in and day out. It was devastating. Royal Caribbean should be ashamed. We stayed for about an hour and couldn't stand it anymore... bailed out and went back to the ship.
Montego Bay... We'd originally booked a kayaking trip on the Great River online. We wanted to go to Mayfield Falls, but the online booking engine wouldn't let us book the kids. It was saying the tour was for 16 and up. When I emailed customer service they said it was because they served alcohol on the tour to ages 21 and up (go figure?). At any rate, we went to the Explorations Desk once we were on board and asked - AGAIN. They said that there was no reason the kids couldn't go to Mayfield, so we cancelled the kayaking tour (we're still having issues getting our refunds) and booked the falls instead.
This was my favorite excursion. (My DH and kids liked some of the other ones more, but this was my favorite.) It was a little difficult to find our guide in the terminal. Once we did, we got on our bus and headed off to the falls. It was an adventurous drive on a very, very, very, scary mountainous road. There were no guard rails, iffy pavement, and places where two cars didn't have room to pass side by side.
The falls were beautiful and clean. There were a couple of little shops at the beginning. The climb was a bit harder than Dunn's, but our guide knew where to go and was very helpful. There were only about a dozen people in our group. Compare that to Dunn's!! There were places to "cliff" jump and an underwater "cave" to swim through. They took digital pictures of us and sold us the whole lot on a disc for $20. This was a fantastic tour and I'll return the next time we're in Mobay.
Grand Cayman...We did the Stingray City (2 stop) snorkeling tour... This is the tour that taught me that I have to be VERY careful with RCCL's wording on their tour descriptions. First off, Stingray City and the Stingray Sandbar are two different places. We picked this tour because it specifically said "STINGRAY CITY"... not "sandbar"...I did not want to go to the sandbar. The sandbar is the place that most tourists are familiar with. It is where you stand in about 4 ft of water and play with the stingrays. It is crowded and crazy. The original "stingray city" is in about 12 - 15 ft. of water. You can't stand up there. It can get crowded, but is usually not nearly as bad because you have to know how to swim. I was pretty irked that we weren't taken to the place that our tour said we were going. I also thought that the "2 stop snorkeling" in the description was a little misleading. I guess it was wishful thinking, but I thought that it meant that we were going to be making two stops to snorkel in addition to our stop with the rays. In spite of my frustrations though, my family had a blast. They were able to see some healthier reef structure (compared to Labadee), play with the rays, a nurse shark, and a moray. I've been to Cayman about a dozen times on land based trips. This was the first and last time I'll go there on a cruise. Thankfully, my DH enjoyed it enough to want to go back with me and stay for a week or so. ?
Cozumel... I boogered up our shore excursion here really bad. We should have stuck with our original plan and taken a dive trip. After a week on the ship, I have no doubt MY kids would have been fine on the boat. Feel free to disagree if you wish. We all have a right to our own opinions. At any rate, I let other people's opinions get the best of my better judgment and we booked a dolphin swim. The Chankanaab swim was full, so we had to take the ferry to Playa. I MISSED THE FINE PRINT when I was booking that must have said something to the effect of "you don't get to go to the good part of Xel-Ha and have fun and snorkel... you have to go to the sucky part of Xel-Ha and stand around looking at old rocks and be eaten alive by mosquitos... then instead of getting to swim with the dolphins at Xel-Ha, we're going to cart you off to some hotel to swim in a dirty pond with them and a bunch of poo! Oh, and by the way, when you're really tired and a little sick from the gross lunch we feed you, we aren't going to let you catch a ferry back. You HAVE to go SHOPPING whether you want to or not and wait for the absolute last ferry so you can RUN back to the ship as it's pulling up the lines!" Oh yeah... I missed that stuff in the explanation. Fun tour... Not! Did I mention it was expensive too? What a waste of a day.
Other things that I noticed about the ship and life in general...
While we loved having the same wait staff every night, we did not enjoy having to brave the throngs of people all showing up at the dining room at the same time. We never waited any longer for a table on Princess than we did on the Liberty... just to get to our assigned table.
The prices that they charge for pictures are ridiculous. I'd much rather be able to get a discount on the pictures than a free souvenir album. We did end up having to buy the cruise DVD because we were on it! My younger son was a spider monkey on the rock wall so they filmed him quite a bit and then caught a shot of all of us waving like big dorks. ?
I thought the shops on board were really lacking. I can only compare this cruise to the one other we've been on... Island Princess - Alaska - 2005. It was a much smaller ship, but the shops had a much nicer selection. RCCL seems to be all about the logo merchandise. Princess had a really nice selection of original Alaskan art objects and local souvenirs in addition to the normal t-shirts and stuff. I was happy to be able to find Clarins products though. I'd forgotten my moisturizer at home.
Speaking of art... We stopped by the art auction. HAHAHAHAHAHA! I still can't believe that there were actually people there... BUYING... that stuff. OMG! The prices were so out of line it was unbelievable. Please, if you love art, buy it for yourself. Pay what you can AFFORD. Do not let some smarmy cruise auctioneer hand you a glass of cheap champagne in hopes of convincing you to get a second mortgage to buy that stuff as an "investment"... You will NEVER get your money back. That is, unless, you can find someone equally gullible.
The elevators were a joke. We stayed away from them unless we were going UP five or more flights. Stairs are good. I guess that's why we didn't gain weight.
My husband got a nice haircut at the barbershop. I had a decent spa service - although the gal used something on my eyes that caused them to peel for several days afterwards. I was able to get a list of ingredients from Steiner after the fact so I know what to avoid in the future.
The staff, overall, was pretty polite if not ecstatic to be there. Our waitstaff and the staff at the rockwall and flowrider were highpoints. Our cabin steward was average (the last day ticked me off though). I was very unimpressed with the staff at Explorations with the exception of one of the dive instructors from Canada. He was very helpful. Hopefully, he got our refund situation (for the cancelled excursions) straightened out. We should know in the next week or so. I found the cruise director to be mildly annoying. If I'd heard one more "bing bong" by the end of the week I would have liked to have smacked him.
There are some extraordinarily rude passengers. I don't want to start a war, but in my experience the majority of them did not seem to be American. I know must Europeans consider us to be rude. I would guess that it is some sort of cultural difference that makes us all clash. I'd be curious to know what it is if anyone has ever figured it out. I was shocked at the number of times I was literally SHOVED and ELBOWED.
We were bummed to miss the Meet and Mingle. We received the invite two days after it happened. I hope everyone that made it had a nice time.
Last but not least... The dreaded Noro Virus. There was a mention of hand washing every day in the Compass. To my knowledge, nobody got sick. We did see the remnants of an "accident" near the basketball court. A little girl walked by and said it was "poopy"... it was mostly gone by the time we arrived. They steam cleaned it and sprayed it down with some sort of sanitizer. The ONLY place I saw Purel wipes was at the sign in for the Flowrider. Things that make me go... HMMMM?
Henry is alive and well on the Liberty! ?
Please feel free to ask any questions about whatever I might have forgotten...
Best wishes and happy cruising.