I am by no means a seasoned cruiser (although I am doing all I can to become one) and this is my third cruise with RC and seventh overall. I traveled with my DH and three children (6, 10 and 12). This is the third cruise for my kids (2nd on RC).
We flew down to Miami from DC the day prior and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel. I booked directly through their website and for $100 the room was unbelievable. The bedding was very nice, hotel and room decor was sophisticated, and the pool was large- although the water was cool. The hotel does charge for daily parking (I think $10 a day). We rented a car from Dollar since they provide both airport and port transfers. I had read reviews on the hotel's restaurant being pricey and to upscale for me to want to traipse my kids into for a pre-cruise dinner. The car worked out nicely since there is nothing around the hotel in walking distance. We ended up driving around for quite a while before we found a chain restaurant to eat- so in hindsight I would have asked for directions!!!!!!
The morning of the cruise we returned the rental car and Dollar had a shuttle waiting to take people to the port. We were at the port within 15 minutes and boarding the ship within 30 minutes upon arrival. There were no lines and we breezed right through. The only "wait" was just prior to boarding when they hand out the group number cards but that was maybe 10 minutes.
The ship itself is a souped up version of the Voyager class. Since we have been on Explorer it was nice to know where we were going on Liberty. The expanded promenade allows for the eating areas to be broken up and spaced out. On Explorer the cafe would get crowded because it serves the pizza, sandwiches, coffee, and Ben/Jerrys Ice Cream. But on Liberty they each have their own store front which spreads out the crowds. The seating in the Cafe was very nice- leather chairs- and we spent a good amount of time sitting a watching the people walk by while we ate.
The upper pool deck has the H2O Zone which we made our pool zone. DH and I did not even set toe in the other main pool- which I am sure would not have been the case had it not been for the fact that we had kids with us. Having the H2O Zone seems to have cut down on the kids being in the main pool area. Now they have their own fun place to run and get wet.
The flowrider was not what we anticipated. The lines are long, the ride time is short, and there were quite a few people I saw holding a body part as they exited the wave. Myself included- I guess that is why we sign our life away on all of the waivers. I tried the stand up surfing and the boarding. I could get the hand of the surfing (although took a pretty good hit in the shoulder when I fell off) but the boarding is for the truly talented- otherwise known as kids- I just could not keep the board in the wave zone and was immediately shot to the back wall. Upon my second attempt my ankle took a direct hit which put me out of walking commission for the next day. My kids said they would rather have had the roller blading in place of the flowrider- and I second that suggestion. But, I'm sure there are the fans out there that would not- maybe had I not hurt myself I'd be one of them.
The kids spent a lot of time in Adventure Ocean. On the Explorer they rarely were asking to go- but not this time- there were a few days when we were planning on spending time at the pool and the boys opted to go to AO. Every night they were begging to stay for the after-hours "party" so they could play longer. We were pleased to see that RC allowed my older son to move down to his brother's age group. He technically was to be in the "teen" zone- but after DH and I looked at it we felt he would have more fun with structured activities- he is not into the hanging out and talking phase of being a teen. This AO has the "GPS" tags for all of the kids- which I thought was cool- they are a bracelet that is worn while in AO and if the kid gets out of the club area they can be tracked throughout the ship. I'm sure it provides peace of mind for the parents of the youngest group.
Our room was a big upgrade for us- we had the family promenade room and LOVED IT! The space was amazing- we had so much storage that we did not use it all. And for those that have traveled with 4 in a room they know what it is like to bump their heads in the middle of the night. The kids had their own bunk area and the pull out sofa. The room can be divided with a full curtain for some privacy between kids and adults. I know for a fact that in the future we will look to book this room again, it made the trip so much more enjoyable.
The staff is wonderful. Dorothy from Jamaica was our room attendant and she always had the room done before we returned from our breakfast outing. Our dining room waiter was Ivan and assistant was Ainsley. Ainsley was excellent- in our opinion was the best we have had on our seven cruises. Our glasses were always filled and bread plates were never empty. He cleared the table promptly and kept the kids entertained. I am sure he will be on his way to a waiter soon. Ivan was prompt with delivering the food and keeping us all happy- he cut up the kids meat (which they can do themselves but like to take advantage when they can) and brought special requests for us- specifically the banana bread on a daily basis.
We knew two past crew members from Explorer would be on Liberty and we found our waitress Beverly and bartender Andre who both remembered us. I don't know if that is good or bad that we left an impression upon them!!!!
The shows were all excellent- as everybody says, don't miss the ice show- it is amazing that they can perform on a smaller than regular rink and do so with such flawless style.
We ate at Johnny Rockets once. We went late in the week and were there when they first opened and there was no line. But I noticed from then on out there were full tables and people waiting.
One last thing to mention was the fitness center. The fitness equipment was top of the line Life Fitness and the space was designed like a land-based gym. There are plenty of cardio machines, free weights, and weight machines. We only got to use the gym twice and did not have to wait for a cardio machine.
All in all this was a wonderful family vacation. I am in cruise withdrawal having to come home and cook and clean for myself now......I know the only cure will be to book another cruise with Royal Caribbean and have something to look forward to.