Liberty of the Seas, August 18 through August 25, 2007.
Hello, my name is Jeff Little and this was my 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean. I am a big ship fan and had been looking forward to this cruise for over two years. I was booked on Freedom last year but had to cancel for personal reasons so the anticipation had an extra year to grow. I was not disappointed.
We arrived in Miami a day early. I learned my lesson in March on Majesty of the Seas when we had mechanical trouble and weather trouble with the plane and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 2:30 instead of 10:30 on the day of sailing out of Miami. Talk about getting in just under the wire! If you don't want to start your vacation out stressfully, then go the day before.
After reading many reviews, I booked the Beacon in South Beach. Nice little art deco hotel at the beach. For under $200, it was a great choice for location and entertainment. As everyone has heard, South Beach is pricey as far as food is concerned but being in the middle of the action was completely worth it. I got up early the day of sailing to catch Liberty coming in to the channel but she arrived earlier than anticipated. But, I did get to see one of the Carnival ships sail in from the end of the beach at the channel. It was impressive but I am sure the sight of Liberty would have been amazing. If you want to catch a glimpse, you might have to be up at 5 a.m. and not the 6 a.m. time frame that RC posts on the website. In fact, early debarkation starts at 6:15 a.m. so I am assuming the 5 a.m. arrival in Miami is pretty standard.
Another great thing about being in the general area of the cruise terminal is the short, stressless ride from your hotel to the pier. It is so nice to get up and be able to eat breakfast, relax, take a run, etc. and then head to the ship. I have never had a long wait to check in for a cruise but with the sheer number of passengers on Liberty, I was anticipating a huge crowd. We took a cab to the pier at 1 p.m. We were immediately greeted by a porter and within 5 minutes, we were at the queue to check in. The lines were fairly short at this time and it took about 20 minutes to check in. By 1:45 we were climbing the gang way.
With two years of anticipation, I was boarding the worlds largest cruise ship and my partner Andrew could not stop laughing at the smile on my face. After stepping onto the ship, we had the customary picture taken and then headed inside. I have been on Adventure of the Seas but Andrew has only been on Majesty so he has never seen the Royal Promenade. I was very excited to see his impression upon seeing it for the first time. He could not believe that this was actually on a ship and compared to the Voyager ships, the promenade on Liberty is much larger. We passed a family with several young kids and one of the boys walking by made the comment about how much "he loved this city" referring to the Royal Promenade. It was hilarious but such a neat point of view.
We headed up to our cabin. I had wanted to be near major access points and was able to book cabin 8642. It is located on the "hump" at the rear centrum area right next to Royal Caribbean On Line. This was a perfect spot. Deck 8 puts you right in the middle of the action. It is only 3 flights up from the Royal Promenade and 3 flights down from the pool deck and the Windjammer. You get lots of stair action for exercise without straining yourself and you don't have to wait on elevators as often. Our cabin was ready when we arrived about 2 p.m. We put down our carry ons, checked out the room and balcony and then proceeded to tour the ship and eat lunch in Windjammer. I could spend so much time talking about the ship but if you go, you will get to enjoy the beauty and size yourself. The one amazing thing that stood out was the contemporary art in the stairways. It is very different from other ships and we spent a lot of time enjoying the collection. If you are looking for french impressionism or landscape art, you will be disappointed but we found the modern collection very refreshing and in keeping with being on the most modern, innovative ship in the world.
Upon arriving at Windjammer for our first meal, I was able to see the size difference between Voyager class and Freedom class ships. The size of Jade and placement was evident and changed the whole perspective of walking in to Windjammer. Also, Chops and Portofino are much larger. The dark woods used really enhanced the feel of walking into this area. Before we sat down for lunch, I did go to Chops and Portofino to book our dinners. There was a little bit of a line but nothing overwhelming at this time. After making our reservations, Andrew and I headed in to the Windjammer. Being my 5th cruise on RC, Windjammer has grown a little old. The food is consistent but really nothing to talk about. I usually stick with the burgers as I don't want to overdo it before dinner and this was my choice this time as well. Andrew, being the young liberal vegetarian (well, not completely as he will eat seafood) did have a lot of choices as well so there is plenty to eat with variety but nothing that stood out from what I could see.
After lunch, we went back to the room for a bit to get ready for the muster drill. It was very quick and our station attendants were nice and let us take off the life jackets due to the heat and humidity. After muster we made a quick run back to the cabin to drop off our life jackets and then we proceeded to Olive or Twist in the Crown Lounge area of the ship on deck 14. I have made it a tradition to be in the Crown Lounge at departure with a Dirty Martini in hand. At the bar, we were greeted by Darwin, the bar tender, and in no time, he was calling us by our names. If fact, on every evening we came up to Olive or Twist, he greeted us with a sincere smile and used our names. I highly recommend going to see him. He made me feel like I came into his bar on a regular basis for years, not just some customer here for a week and then gone.
As we sailed out of the Miami terminal, it was amazing and when we passed the Carnival ship, it was so neat to see all of their passengers stare up at us. In fact, the number of camera flashes I saw made me feel like a star....lol...well, I guess it was Liberty they were really looking at.
After we finished our drinks and were at sea, we headed back to the cabin and at 6 p.m. still had no luggage. I went down the passage way to the crew elevator and one of the attendants dug through the luggage pile to get to my bags. I know they could have said wait until we get to it but they did not and I wanted to thank them for their effort. They helped me back to the cabin with the bags and we unpacked. We had the second seating (always the best choice in my opinion) which makes it much easier to get ready after a long day of shore excursions or relaxing during a sea day. I had early seating once and felt rushed to get there on time.
We were in the Rembrandt Dining Room on deck 3. Our table seated 14 and was in the middle of the dining dining next the grand stair case. Being on the lowest level, we had a three story ceiling above us and this was great. In fact, we were next to the captains table. As always, I was a little trepidatious about meeting our table mates as being a gay couple, we know that many folks are not comfortable with our life style but being at such a large table, we need not have worried. Our table mates were a great group of people. We had a family of four from Germany, a young couple from Connecticut who was expecting, a family of four from Connecticut (not related to the couple) and couple from Long Island on their anniversary. It was so nice getting to know everyone and we had a great time every night that we ate in main dining. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very attentive and used our names and got us what ever we needed, included the second lobster tail on lobster night. The food each evening was good and the festivities as fun as always. The one oddity in the second seating on this cruise was a table where a gentleman came in costume each evening. He literally dressed up each night like it was halloween and did cause some ruckus as he strolled around. At first I thought it was set up by Royal Caribbean but you could see the dining staff was not sure what to make of it either. If you were on this cruise and remember this, let me know if you have any more information on this guy.
I have spend a lot of time on day one so I don't want to bore you with details from each day. I want to tell you to take advantage of all that there is to do, even if it is just once. The shows were all fun to attend; the flow rider was a blast to sit and watch; relaxing by the pool is always nice; sitting in the cantilevered hot tubs over the sea is great; the fitness center is the nicest I have encountered on any of the other ships; the hot stone massage was wonderful (especially since I did it on Friday and $40 off); the casino was fun but be careful as it will add to the cost of your vacation; etc. The Liberty of the seas has it all and just enjoy it.
I went on this cruise for the ship and not the ports. As you saw on the news, we did have hurricane Dean that week and I was worried about the weather but it turned out fine. We went east as Dean went west and we had little to no rain or bad weather. On the first day at Sea, we did encounter some outer wind bands from Dean as we headed through the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and it was windy (50 MPH) on the upper decks but it made it nice and cool to lay out. Otherwise, you could not have asked for better weather.
PORTS OF CALL:
San Juan, PR- This is my 3rd visit to San Juan so not as exciting for a 6 hour visit. It was Andrew's first time so I enjoyed showing him Old San Juan. You have to see El Morro, walk the streets, see the plaza were all the pigeons are, the church where Ponce De Leon is entombed, the governors mansion, the old gate, etc and of course, Senior Frogs...lol...WE enjoyed our time and finished it off with a fantastic Mojito at a restaurant called Mojitos just a few blocks from the pier. I don't remember the street so look it up or ask for the location once you get there.
St. Maarten- This is my second visit and I rented a jeep from Best Deal car rental for the second time. On the first trip I drove the island and saw all the beaches and on that trip I ran across Maho beach at the airport. On this visit, I knew that was where I wanted to stay for the day. WE drove over and parked by the Sunset Beach bar and grill. The thing you need to know about this beach is that it is at the end of the runway at Princess Juliani airport. If you are looking for peace and quiet go to Mullet or Orient beach. If you like airplanes, then come here. It is an exhilarating experience to have a 757 fly over you at 100 feet or feel the jet blast as plane goes to full throttle on take off. Just be careful for the debris flying around you as it could get in your eyes. If you do rent a car, driving is fairly easy but it is a foreign country, the roads are small and you have to merge very quickly as the locals don't give you an option. Also, if you rent a car, allow an extra half hour to get back into Philipsburg to return the car and then get the shuttle back to the pier.
Labadee, Haiti- This is a great place to relax and or your butt off with all the activities. We chose to relax. Having been to Coco Key, I was not as thrilled with Labadee. The water is green, not blue and seemed a little dirty. I would rather go to Coco Key or even a different port of call but a lot people seemed to enjoy it and it was not bad, just not as Idyllic as a private island in the caribbean should be.
Liberty herself, the friendliness of the staff, the Olive or Twist bar or the Champagne Bar (the staff in both was great), Chops and Portofino restaurants were excellent, the gym, the spa, hanging out at Vintages on the Royal Promenade, St. Maarten airport beach, getting to know your table mates, the shows and so much more.
We chose to take the early disembarkation where you carry your own luggage off the ship as we wanted to catch a stand by flight back to Dallas instead of the later flight we had booked. This went fast and easy and we left the ship at 7:15 a.m and we were at Miami international by 7:45 and on the 8:30 flight to Dallas. In fact, we got home just as the last passengers were leaving the ship according to the schedule.
I have read many reviews and some are good and some are bad. I really think it is a mindset. Some people have expectations that cannot ever be achieved and you see that in the reviews. If you expect to be pampered, then book a luxury cruise. If you want to have fun at a reasonable price, I think Royal Caribbean does a great job. Any cruise can be expensive if you don't watch your bar bill or your time in the casino...LOL...so go with the attitude that you are going to have fun and take advantage of all there is to do, even if you only do it once. Spend some time relaxing as well. Liberty of the Seas has lots of private spaces away from the crowds if you look for it or you can be in the middle of the action if that is what you want.
Take care and may the wind be at your backs.