Myself (51), my wife (49), daughter (16) and 2 of my daughters friends (also 16) were on the August 11-17, 2007, Western Caribbean sailing of the Liberty of the Seas. This was our fifth cruise: 1st cruise was on Costa Rivera to Alaska in June 1992 (elegant dining and Sitka was an interesting port); 2nd cruise was also to Alaska on RCCL Vision of the Seas during summer 1997 (enjoyed Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Fjord); 3rd cruise was on Carnival Victory during August 2001 from NYC to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (we received written permission from Carnival to leave the ship in New Brunswick and drove along the coast to see tidal changes in the Bay of Fundy by visiting the Hopewell Rocks and the tidal bore of the Petitcodiac River; then drove over to Nova Scotia and went fossil hunting at Joggins, before rejoining the ship); and our 4th cruise was a spur of the moment, 3 night cruise last August on RCCL Sovereign of the Seas (we enjoyed Coco Cay). The Cruise Critics boards and the internet were essential in planning this trip. Three items were of most importance to me: posters linking their Liberty of the Seas Cruise Compasses to Cruise Dailies, posting of the Dining Room menus for the Liberty of the Seas and reviews of the ship and shore excursions. Having this information prior to the cruise made our days stress free.
Day 1, Saturday Depart Miami - Casual Dining We arrived at the port at 11:30 am after early morning flights (My wife and daughter flew into Miami following a swim meet in Indianapolis; while I flew into Miami from home with my daughters friends). Embarkment was smooth, but somewhat boring. I think RCCL could enhance the boarding experience as they cue cruisers in line with various TV monitors playing videos of the upcoming trip; maybe even as a marketing tool showing the details of the ship (spa treatments, gym, dining options, shore excursions available at the various ports of call); only a thought. I chose this Liberty of the Seas cruise because it fit our personal schedule, Caribbean port itinerary (Swimming with the Dolphins in Cozumel), and being a new ship with all the amenities the ship offered: expansive gym, Flow Rider, ice skating ring, large promenade, etc. The gym is well appointed with Life Fitness (LF) 95Ti treadmills and LF 95Xi ellipticals with a few LF Summit Trainers. Being new, it was a great place to work out with an expansive view of the ocean. I used the treadmill and elliptical daily (except for day 5 as I was hot after visiting Grand Cayman) and was impressed by the smooth glide and stride of the equipment.
First up, my wife went to guest relations on the Promenade deck to rent Dect Phones to be able to communicate with our teenagers during the cruise ($50 rental for 2 phone; loss of phone fee $300; the phones worked great all week, but we needed to switch to walkie talkies when on shore except at the port shops in Cozumel). The ship is beautiful as the architecture of the promenade, artwork and layout is truly stunning. I recommend that cruisers take the time to view the paintings and textured artwork in the stairwells as well as the interactive artwork found at the entryways to the staterooms off of the stair cases. For example, our staterooms were on starboard, Deck 8 next to the Royal Caribbean "Online" internet café where the art theme was magic. There was three dimensional artwork including 2 interactive hands on pieces which when rotated depicted a rabbit doing magic trick in a hat and a second of a magician causing a body to rise. I implore cruisers to spend a minute enjoying the artwork found throughout the ship. My wife and I were in a Deck 8, D2 balcony room, while the three girls were in an interior room across the hall. The rooms were well appointed and the flat screen TV's had onscreen ordering and the ability to check our sea pass charges. We did not use our balcony much on this trip as we spent a lot of time outside on the upper decks.
We ate breakfast and lunch (except Labadee) daily at the Windjammer. The food was varied and filling. One note about the use of hand sanitizers on the Liberty of the Seas; there were none used on our sailing. When I asked on my first entrance to the Windjammer where the hand sanitizers were located the greeter said they must not have been put out yet; I asked her when they would be put out and she said perhaps tomorrow. Not seeing them the second day of the cruise, I spoke with the Head Waiter of the Windjammer. He informed me that the Miami home office dictates when the sanitizers are to be used. The Cruise Compass under the title HELPFUL TRAVEL HEALTH ADVISORY for Day 1 stated "you will see many portable hand sanitizers around the ship that are available for you"; Days 2 and 3 of the Compass stated "wash your hands before using the hand sanitizers"; Day 4, no mention; Day 5 "wash your hands before using the hand sanitizers"; Day 6 "you may see hand sanitizer wipes" and Day 7, no mention. I did see sanitizer wipes in the gym daily and many people were using them. I never saw one sanitizer all week outside the Dining Room or Windjammer! Fortunately, we had several 1.5 oz size germ-X hand sanitizer bottles packed with our carryon luggage.
For dinner, we were on Deck 3 the Rembrandt level, placed at table 320 which had seating for 12, ourselves (5), plus a member of the ice skating show, her mother, her brother and his wife as well as a fabulous older couple (Helen and Gordon) from Scotland. The Dining Room with the glass chandelier was very beautiful. The food in the Dining Room was exceptional in taste, as well as presentation. Dennis, our waiter from India, was great providing the best service. We did not plan to eat most meals in the Dining Room (we had limited appropriate dining room clothing because we did carry-on at the airports), but were so initially impressed by the first evening that we ate all meals except the second formal night in the Dining Room. For the week, I ordered daily the healthy choice Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert (except for the Turkey Dinner on the last night and Apple Pie a la mo on the first night) and found everything satisfying. The welcome aboard show was typical, nothing special. The comedian, Rodney Johnson was on our Sovereign of the Seas cruise last year. When he began his act it was identical to the one preformed on the Sovereign, but he added some new material as the act concluded.
Day 2 Sunday, At Sea - Captain's Gala Formal Dining An Interdenominational Church service was held at 9 am in the Skylight Chapel, a light filled sanctuary on Deck 15. The service was attended by approximately 25 people and included readings from the Tanakh, Holy Bible (New Testament), Chinese proverbs, silent prayer and meditation and the Lord's Prayer as well as singing of Amazing Grace. The service lasted approximately 30 minutes and was a nice way to start the day. We transitioned from Sunday Service - to the Pool - Lunch - to the Men's Belly Flop Contest; only on a cruise! The Belly Flop Contest was rather enjoyable as a number of the participants (not all) were well endowed (abdomen endowed) men. Not sure how a large belly served them in the rest of their life's, but for the Belly Flop Contest it was fundamental for a good "dive". I taped a portion of the contest and it is one of the highlights from my video of the trip. Dinner tonight was the first Formal night. Most people were dressed up, men in dark suits or tuxedos while women were in either long formal gowns or cocktail dresses.
The evening show was performed by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers called "Somewhere in Time". My wife and I thought the show was poorly conceived as it centered on the performers singing contemporary songs in period costumes. It just did not work. Some of the solo vocalists were strong, but we lost interest and left.
Day 3: Monday, Labadee, Haiti - Venetian Feast Casual Dining We tendered over to Labadee early and went to Dragon's Breath Point. I videotaped the "breathing" of the dragon, created by sea water moving through crevices of the rock formation. It was fun to experience these blow holes, as we have seen similar phenomena elsewhere. While at Dragons Breath Point, a Haitian asked if my wife and I wanted our picture taken; before I thought about it, he took our picture and when he returned the camera to me he had a $5 bill showing in the palm of his hand. I took the camera and remembered for the rest of the day to move my own chairs and beach loungers! My wife and I then spent a lot of time at the shallow, protected cove of Barefoot Beach which had white sand with small fish swimming about, situated with an excellent view of the Liberty of the Seas. I preferred this beach over the much larger Dragon Tail Beach which had waves, but was very rocky.
We then went to the Artisan's Market (set pricing) and Haitian Flea Market (prices negotiable) to look at the craft ware. I bought a wooden globe from a vendor at the flea market. I looked at several globes until I found one somewhat different than the others. The one I purchased rotated about the bottom on a marble axis, while all of the other venders used a nail as the axis on the bottom of the globe. The vendors of the Flea market were somewhat aggressive which I anticipated. While I was negating with the prospective vendor of the globe, another of his rivals came up to me from an adjoining booth, lowering the price on his globe, thereby decreasing the price of the better made globe by 50 percent. After paying the vendor, I asked if he had any children. He said yes, three boys. I asked him if they liked to play in the ocean and he said yes. I then opened up my backpack and handed him 3 beach balls, still in their original packaging, which I purchased at Wal-Mart for about $1 each and told him the beach balls were a gift to his children. Another vendor immediately told me he had children who would like beach balls and I gave him the last one I had and he thanked me. The vendors in the flea market are extremely impoverished. I had gotten the idea to give a gift while reading on these boards of others giving clothing when they visited Haiti (I choose beach balls because of limited space in my carry on luggage). I urge all cruisers to give a gift when they visit the impoverished peoples of the Caribbean. However, I have also read of posters whom have bartered the buffet lunch provided by RCCL to obtain artisan crafts. I believe the barter of the buffet lunch is extremely tacky.
Day 4: Tuesday, Montego Bay, Jamaica - Crown & Anchor Casual We had no shore excursions scheduled for this port so we stayed on the ship and had a relaxing day enjoying the children's pool, playing miniature golf, shuffle board, shooting basketballs and playing trivia in the Schooners Bar. I believe it was on Day 4 when I saw two cruisers using the boxing ring in the gym (the Compass listed times the boxing ring was scheduled for activities). It was the only time I saw anyone boxing all week. However, on three occasions, as I entered the gym passing the boxing ring, the gym staff were giving lectures to cruiser sitting in the boxing ring on various topics such as 'algae to purify the body' or some such thing. The true value of the boxing ring may be as an extremely visible venue for sales pitches by the cruise fitness staff! The evening entertainment was the "Encore" Ice show. It was an ice spectacular, an exceptionally well choreographed and executed show. The costuming and dance routines of the ice skaters were fabulous. It was so good we went back for an encore performance on the last day of the cruise. The ice show is not to be missed!!
Day 5: Wednesday, Georgetown, Grand Cayman - Chef's Dinner Formal We took a latter tender from the ship to Grand Cayman. Upon arriving at the pier we took a short walk to Eden Rock Dive Center. Accessing the water was down a ladder into an area about four feet deep. Fish were visible immediately at the ladder. Tarpons (4 ft long) were common at the adjacent restaurants' snorkeling access point as they feed the fish table scraps. The water was so clear; it was like looking in an aquarium. If you bring your own equipment it was free to snorkel. After the girls snorkeled we did some shopping at the shops near the pier. After shopping for a while, the girls and my wife ate appetizers at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville as they enjoyed the "show", music and the food. That evening, my wife and I attended the second offering from the singers and dancers called "Ever After". The Daily Compass said the show was "A fun look at story book characters as they come to life and live", well they may have come to life but, I did not think they lived very well. This show was boooooring, and amounted to a hodge podge of skits shifting from one storybook characterization to another with no real purpose. For me, the Liberty Singers and Dancers were 0 for 2, because of poorly scripted productions, themes and stage presentations that were just not very cohesive, very amateurish.
Day 6: Thursday, Cozumel, Mexico - Surf Dinner Casual After docking in Cozumel we (along with our table mates Helen and Gordon) took a van from the pier to Chankanaab Park as we had booked directly for the teens to do the Dolphin Royal Swim (the Royal Swim is not available if booked through RCCL). I liked this park as it was varied with a nice beach, plenty of places to sit in a pavilion to eat or drink, air conditioned souvenir shop, a well groomed trail to see replicas of Mayan ruins (they looked like replicas), and lots of fish in the near shore areas. I was able to video tape the girls enjoying the Royal swim, but had to remain on the main boardwalk to do the video taping. You were allowed to walk out to where the dolphin swim was occurring, but had to pay an additional fee of $5, and you were not allowed to bring a camera. We felt this was unjustified to add a $5 fee, to the $16 fee we spent to enter the park. Anyway, the teens really enjoyed the dolphin swim. I returned to the ship in the early afternoon, as it was hot while the girls and my wife did some shopping at the pier.
Day 7: Friday, At Sea Feast of Nations Casual Time to be home! My wife and I have had a great trip, but we were ready to be in our beautiful home. I know we are probably in the minority of cruisers, but we really enjoy being home with the amenities our home offers. Anyway, we went to the farewell variety show and were pleasantly surprised. The show did include the obligatory top 10 question (essentially the same top 10 give or take a question we have seen on previous cruises), however, also the aerial team of Jimmy and Anna did a deafly staged show and we really enjoyed the comedian/magician John Ferrentino. We went to the Casino this last night early and lost our obligatory $20. It was not crowded or very smoky. I returned to the casino after 12 pm and it was crowded and very smoky. A quick note on our cruise director, Marc Walker, as this was his first week on the Liberty of the Seas. He seem fine to me, probable the right type of personality, goofy and energetic. I personally could care less about the cruise director.
Saturday, Self Disembarkment We chose self-disembarkment to be able to leave early off the ship to catch a 10:50 am flight out of Miami. We ate an early breakfast in the Windjammer and departed the ship by 6:45am, entered customs, and arrived via a taxi to the airport by 8:15 am, in plenty of time for our flight.
Teens 15-17 Activities Because we had the Dect phones we could communicate with our teens when needed. The teens were provided with a Teens 15-17 Compass each day in their stateroom. The sponsored activities we know they participated in were the following: Day 1 Teen Up and Bon Voyage Blast 11:30 pm in Fuel (the teen room); Day 2 Teen Skate 10 pm - 10:45 pm; Day 3 Teens only Boggie Boarding on the FlowRider followed by Scratch DJ Pool Party (teens said the DJ was great!) 11:30 pm - 1 am; and Fuel Party 1:15 am until; Day 4 Fuel 11:30 pm until late; Day 5 The Warehouse 11:30 pm until 1 am. They may have participated in more teen sponsored activities during the day but we did not inquire. A lot of the time we know they hung out in the teen room, played foosball, used the internet (cheaper rate in the teen room than in the internet café), and were in the arcade. During the day they were sunbathing around the various pools and upper deck of the ship. Our teens enjoyed the RCCL teen sponsored activities, but said during the end of the week as teens became more comfortable with each other attendance dropped off as teens began to meet in various cabins at night. We did not allow our teens to mingle in private cabins throughout the ship. Parents who allow their teens to run wild throughout the ship, especially at night, are asking for trouble, especially underage drinking, which occurred on the Liberty of the Seas in the staterooms during our cruise.
Discover Shopping Discover shopping was the over hipped preview of approved stores at the Ports of Call in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. For example in Cozumel, the Discover Shopping map lists one store at the International Pier where we docked, Diamonds International. When I asked a member of the RCCL Discover Shopping staff if other shops were at the International Pier she grudging said yes. We were going to Chankanaab Park, in the opposite direction than the downtown shopping area shown on the approved shopping guide. It was only after I quizzed the shopping staff I learned there was a shopping area at the International Pier. If you look at the map provided by RCCL it appears that Diamonds International is the only store present at the pier. Extremely misleading on the part of RCCL to attempt to herd all cruisers to the approved stores downtown (and the Diamonds International store at the pier) and excluding all the stores at the pier. Shameful!!
Crowds on the Ship The Liberty of the Seas carries a great deal of passengers; however, the full brunt of other passengers can be ameliorated by adjusting your schedule to consistently avoid the crowds. The following are a few examples we followed to avoid the crowds on the ship.
Windjammer Café and Jade In the Windjammer Cafe, most lines form behind the Jade cafeteria style section as you enter this venue. This is because whichever entryway of the Windjammer is open you must past by the Jade station prior to entering the remainder of the Windjammer. Past the Jade are the drink, dessert, hot entrée, vegetable and sandwich stations. Many cruisers I observed cued up at the Jade line (10 to 20+ deep waiting) without entering the rest of the Windjammer. Therefore, to avoid the crowd, pass the Jade and look at the food selections at the remainder of the Windjammer. At the remaining food stations there were seldom any waiting to get your meal. Also, this allows you the ability to see all of the selections available at each meal sitting. You are less likely to load up your plate at the Jade with items less to your appeal or find your plate overloaded as you traverse the remainder of the Windjammer Cafe.
FlowRider The FlowRider is usually crowded, especially on sea days. The wait can be agonizingly long, especially in the hot sun. The fact is only 2 people can be on the FlowRider at once when it is set up for boogie boarding (only 1 person with stand-up surfing). Therefore, most times there will be a wait to use the FlowRider. However, knowing the schedule of the FlowRider by viewing previous Compasses was key to knowing the best time to use this venue. I informed our teenagers prior to our embarkment of the following times to use the FlowRider after viewing past Compasses. First, the FlowRider was open for boogie boarding at 2-3:45 pm on the day of boarding without crowds as most people were getting acquainted with the ship; the FlowRider was also not crowded during the day while in the Port of Montego Bay when we stayed on the ship (it may also not have been crowded on other port days but we were off the ship). Our teens were at the FlowRider at these times without experiencing crushing crowds. Additionally, the teens were also able to use the FlowRider when it was reserved at night only for children (Shown on the teen compass Day 3, 10-11:15 pm). Otherwise, whenever I walked past the FlowRider it was extremely crowded, especially sea days. Thus, if you plan ahead you can use the FlowRider without many delays.
Liberty Dunes My wife and I played golf on the miniature golf course two times on the ship. Both times were at night. We never waited to begin our golf game. In fact, one night when the rock climbing wall and the FlowRider were not open, there was no one else but us playing golf. I did notice that during the day, the miniature golf course was crowded. We found it more fun to play at night when it was dark and cool with the artificial lighting emanating from the golf course. It was a challenging course with many par 5 holes.
Elevators We did not use the elevators except for the last day of the cruise as we carried our luggage off the ship during self disembarkment. Otherwise, we always used the steps. I was tempted upon returning from Grand Cayman to use the elevators as I was hot. However, upon looking at the jammed masses in the elevator, I choose the steps. Using the steps all week of course avoided the crowds in the elevators, but also provided an opportunity to observe the truly unique and beautiful artwork adjoining the stairwell walls. I encourage all able cruisers to use the stairs on the Liberty of the Seas as the artwork is fascinating, stimulating and varied. If we had used the elevators all week we would probable have been grumpy about the slow elevator service and would have missed all the unique artwork viewable; like a mini art museum. Also, after being in port and using the steps from Decks 2 or 4, up to Decks 11 or 12 used muscles in our calves we did not exercise while on the treadmills or ellipticals.
Jogging/Walking Path I am an early riser and three mornings during the week I choose to stretch my legs with a 2 mile walk (4.5 laps/mile) along the walking path on Deck 12. I walked between 7-8 am during those mornings and found a few other cruisers walking or running at this time of day. It was cooler in the morning, the sun was rising or it was foggy, and few people were out and about. The staff had lined all of the deck chairs so that they were off of the track. It was the ideal time to use the track. Because of the mass of people that lined the track during the day sunbathing, it would not be possible to use the track for jogging or fast walking during the day.
Crowds at Miami International Airport As mentioned above, we did self disembarkment carrying our luggage off of the ship. We arrived at the airport early for our flight. More importantly, we had printed off our boarding passes on the ship in the internet café the night before, thereby, avoiding the crowd's cueing up at the Delta check in customer service area. Therefore, as we entered the airport we were able to advance directly to the security screening to access the gates. If possible, print your boarding passes on the ship, do only carry on luggage, arrive at the airport early, book an early flight, and you are less likely to experience long lines and travel delays at the airport.
We found these few adjustments to our schedule greatly enhanced our enjoyment of the cruise.
To summarize, we had a great trip which met our expectations on a truly beautiful ship. Once again, I want to thank the posters on the CC boards that provide such helpful and useful information. Happy cruising.