Carnival Liberty Cruise: October 27, 2007 to November 4, 2007
My cruise was a lot of fun, but had a "lot" of drama in it. My family loves drama!! So, while this is a review, it is also the story of my family and "our adventure".
Flight to FLL We left home around 7 am. My parents were going to meet up with us in Benton Harbor before we all headed to O'Hare. My wonderful mother decided to take the Tri-State to O'Hare, and since I had never been that way before I followed her. Word of warning - if you are following someone, do not always assume that they know where they are going. I ended up missing one of the tollbooths, almost was hit by a semi, and started to freak out! We parked at the Park N Fly on Mannheim. Very easy to find and they were very quick to get all of our luggage on to the shuttle. When we got to the airport, we ran into a roadblock. My fiance has a very common name, so a red flag came up. We had a "security issue". It was quickly taken care of, and 30 minutes later, we were going through security. I managed my family (fiance, DS and DD) to get us all through security painlessly. My dad was a different story. He has not flown in about 20 years, and always carries a tiny pocketknife with him. Needless to say, it was confiscated and now sits in a pawnshop somewhere (where else are the airports going to put that kind of stuff??). The flight was uneventful, other then my fiance making a hand print on my leg because he has never flown before.
We got to FLL, got our luggage, and I went to call our hotel. It was not listed on the board, so went to get some help. I ended up in the little airline office, where they gave me the number. I ended up finding it ON THE PHONE!! Just hit a little button and then you go. I then turned around and my family was gone. I figured they went outside so my dad could have a smoke - they were not there. Finally, I found my fiance, who was afraid he had lost me. I said "where are the kids", and he said "right outside the door". Guess what, they were not there!! They ended up down at shuttle pickup, which is down at the other terminal. Talk about steam coming out of my ears!!
We stayed at the Sleep Inn Dania. I will not lie, the hotel is starting to show some age, but overall it was a great deal. We had a suite, and there was more then enough room. We had 12 suitcases, plus 6 carry-ons. We shoved all of the luggage in the little sitting area, used the big desk, and had plenty of room for all six of us. We had dinner at Villa JoJo across the street. I was not impressed, and it was expensive. I was not going to venture any further though because it was raining. If anyone wants to see the menu, let me know. The next morning we ate breakfast downstairs, and overall it was good. There was cereal, bagels and cream cheese, waffles, eggs, sausage, bacon and more.
We had a 1:00 shuttle (we arrived at the hotel around 6 PM for those that are thinking about timing), so went over to Rite Aid next door were we picked up a couple of things, then wandered over to the strip mall across the street. The shuttle was there exactly at 1. We were at the port less then 15 minutes later, off loaded, bags checked, and in we went. Because my mom booked a suite, and my daughter was staying with them, we were all allowed to go through VIP check in. For some reason, my mom handed me all of the documents, then we went through security, and when we stepped up to the check in counter, I realized mine and my fiance licenses had disappeared. I searched through everything, then like a crazy person went back to security. I was standing there, looking at the ground, when I turned around and saw three security guards looking at me. In their hands were our licenses. After a minute of then saying I did not look like the picture in the license (was my fiance), I rushed back to check in where my family was stewing. We finished checking in, went and got our embarkation pictures taken, then up the escalator to get our mug shots taken, then on board.
The ship The ship is beautiful! It is not gaudy, very classy. I loved the lobby. My favorite spot was the lobby bar, looking up and watching the chandelier change colors every 5-10 seconds. We had room 7214, Empress Deck interior. My parents had 7230, balcony. Both rooms were very nice, but I was really surprised by the bathroom in the suite. It was huge!! Muster drill seemed to last forever. We were down in station B, but we were shoved up against the big vents. I was wearing a dress. My family spent most of our time holding my dress down. For (what was supposed to be sail away), we went up to the Sun Deck. We were supposed to sail at 4, but there were so many other ships in port that day, we did not get out until after 5:30. We got to see the Emerald Princess sail on her inaugural sailing, plus Enchantment of the Seas, Zuiderdam, and Royal Empress. We ended up missing sail away because we had the 5:45 seating in the Silver Olympian. This is the dining room at the back of the ship. The best piece of advice I can give is fine a deck that goes all the way through. Empress does. Walk all of the way back then go down the back elevators. Our waiters were fabulous! Jose and Viktor were our waiters. They both interacted with the kids a lot and made dinner an event every night. Our bar waitress was Katarina. My daughter loved getting Shirley Temples every night and learned all of our orders quickly.
Our stateroom stewards were fabulous also. They were Justino and Pavlo. The kids loved the towel animals, so much I ended up buying a book! It seemed like they were always working. I was on the Imagination last year, and I never saw my room steward. I saw Justino all of the time, and he always called out by name, whether he was in the hall way or cleaning another room.
Ok, back to night one. Our luggage was all delivered by sail away. My kids and I decided to go see the Wizard of Oz on the big screen, but they lasted about a half hour. I loved watching movies under the stars. Throughout the week they showed Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire, Stranger then Fiction, Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon, Pavarotti, the World Series, Talladega Nights, The Bee Gees, Johnny Cash, Casino Royal, Happy Feet, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, The Prestige, Freedom Writers, and U2.
The first show we saw was Christopher Allen Graves and Singin With the Big Band. This show was fabulous. He really interacted with the audience, and if you want a special treat, so to the early show. He involves Camp Carnival into his show by bringing them up on stage while he performs The Candy Man from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There were lots of parents up taking pictures, including myself. He also performs on the Valor and Miracle, so if you get the chance, catch him!!
The other 2 production shows were great! The two singers were excellent - not too over powering. The Larry Burroughs Orchestra is excellent!! The Two shows were Wonderful World and Rock Down Broadway - very well done!! I did not see anything else - ended up in bed early.
Karl with a K is the new cruise director. Karl is about 5'3" (I know this because I was standing right by him and I am 5'2") but absolutely hilarious. He was kinda unknown before this trip, but I think he is going to be well known very soon!
In Cozumel the ship docked at the Punta Longusta pier downtown. We went to Paradise Beach. The cab cost 13 each way, the wrist bands were 9 bucks person for use of the water trampoline, glacier, kayaks, snorkel gear, etc , and the food cost around 10 bucks. We spent around 90 bucks total, but still saved 60-160 compared to the ships tour for the 4 of us. The nachos and drinks were very good there, and definitely a good value. We went back to town around 1 pm, where we went to Margaritaville for some shopping (prices were very high, higher then Grand Cayman last year), then I dragged my family down to Diamonds International and Tanzanite International for my free goodies (picked up the coupons at the Shore Talk with Moira). Word of warning - Cozumel is horrible for people bugging you to shop in their stores. I was prepared last year for Jamaica, but not for this. It was 10 times worse then Jamaica!! It drove my fiance crazy, who insisted we walk back on the other side of the street on the way back to the ship. We were back on board by 2:30, took a nap and got ready for dinner.
In Costa Rica we booked a tour with Oscar Brown. Our guide was Danny, and he was absolutely fabulous. Here is the description. Tour 6 The Cahuita National Park , and a tour on the beaches of Limon. This tour take you to the Cahuita National Park of Limon, where they charge a donation to enter the park, and for a walk through the forest, and you have a chance to see, monkey, Sloth, and other animals. And also, get the history and information of this particular forest. We saw spider monkeys, howler monkeys and cappuccino monkeys. We saw iguanas, sloth's, and kept our eyes out for snakes. For this tour I take you're to see 2 different beach of the area; Cahuita beach, and Puerto Viejo beach. With these two beaches you have the opportunity to see the white sand beach and the black sand beach. (This is for the people who love to bead in the sea) The beach was extremely dangerous that day, there was a red flag warning out. It as also extremely windy. It was very cool to see two different types of beaches and to learn why the sand was black (caused by volcanic activity over the years). Besides, I include, soft drinks along the road, a visit to the Bamboo trade school, banana plantation, coco beans farm, City tour, the two biggest hotels around the coast, one is a botanical garden, and the other one has a nice vie on a tall hill, the rich area, and a surprise stop; which will take you to the highest part of the city. This is $50 per/person, no extra charge. You will have the opportunity to visit the installation of Colon Caribe, where you have one of the biggest souvenirs shop. Are if you prefer, we will just go to the market to do your shopping, this is your choice. This tour is for 5 to 6 hours We went to the banana plantation first thing, and they were not packing yet, so we just pulled over to the side of the road and he taught us about bananas. We also stopped by a house where they have sloth's, where my son held one. We also learned about other types of food and such. It was all very interesting. We visited Colon Caribe, a large hotel type area that has a shopping area. We did have an issue after leaving the National Park. We were stopped while going through a check point - there was an issue with my parents passports. It was a little unnerving because the guy was new, but Danny got on his cell phone with Immigration and the cruise terminal and had us out of their shortly. He handled it very well and made me even more appreciative of having someone who has been doing this so well taking care of us. He also took us all over the city, from the ports that the bananas are shipped from to the highest part in the city. At the end of the tour, I asked how we had to pay, which I thought would be credit card, but he said no, cash. He was kind enough to take us to the bank where we were able to get the cash in dollars from an ATM. ATTENTION: this is not a tour for someone who hates riding around in a van. Yes, there are bumpy dirt roads, but that is what Costa Rica offers. This tour is meant for those who want to see as much in a short period of time as possible, but also to learn as much as they can about the culture and environment. This was a great tour that could not be found through the ship! There is a little shopping area inside the port. Word of warning - there are no ATM's and very few vendors took credit cards. While I think Moira did a great job as the "shopper" on the ship, she said "DO NOT TAKE CASH INTO COSTA RICA AS THERE IS NO SHOPPING". If you want to pick up so nice pieces of work, take some cash. I was very disappointed that I could not get my shot glasses there, but in the yellow building right there, there is a place that sells t-shirts and shot glasses that has a credit card machine.
In Panama we did Portobelo and Gutan Locks tour, offered through the ship. This was the only port I really wanted to stick with the ship for the tour. Tour the magical city of Portobelo, a market town and fortress that came to life once a year during the trading fairs. On this excursion you will: • Be transferred by bus from Colon to Portobelo. • Visit Fort San Geronimo, Fort San Felipe, Customs House and the Black Christ Church. • Learn the rich history of the Portobelo area. • Leave Portobelo and head to the Gatun locks. • Discover the history behind the engineering masterpiece of the Panama Canal. Note: There will be a restroom stop prior to transferring to the Gatun Locks. We actually did this tour in reverse. We went to the Gutan Locks first. There was a lot more to be discovered then I originally thought. Our guide explained that 9,000 people are employed at the locks, and that housing is offered to all of them onsite. Since the waterway is international, all of the people make good money. We drove through the housing units, saw where the new locks are being built at (the ones for the "big" ships), then taken to the locks themselves. We saw a ship containing 4,000 containers going through the locks. It is a slow process, but very interesting. Since Panama took over the canal from the US, the locks now operate 24 hours a day versus 12, and can process about 24 ships per day. Before a ship can go through the locks, it has to pay the canal through Citibank (transfer) in New York between $66,000- 300,000, depending on the size. The canal is Panama's biggest source of revenue, with tourism at #5. According to the tour guide, it is projected that tourism with be number one within 5 years. (I took a bunch of notes for this, and could write about Panama all day! So I better quit.) We then headed for Portobelo. It is a very long ride there, but not to bumpy because of Colon ministers that live there (no pot holes). This is where the Black Christ Church is, Fort San Filipe and the Customs house. This is a town full of history, and the fort and water are picture perfect. The town it self is a little run down, but I got some beautiful pictures of the water. Note: We were only in Portobelo for approximately 30 minutes (if I would have known it was that short I may not have taken the tour). The guide was very knowledgeable and talked the entire time. The then drove us back to Colon, where they drove us through Fort Davies, which is now being turned into condos. There was a funeral for a fire fighter that had died the day before, so the roads were extremely backed up. We saw the tribute to the fire fighter while sneaking down a back street. There are also no traffic lights in Colon. It truly reminded me of New York City with all of the congestion. As a side note, people think they can go shopping in the Free Zone - this is not true. The Free Zone is really only for people who can buy in bulk, and you have to have a special permit to buy there. Not worth your time when just there for a day. There is some shopping at the pier. We picked up some good deals, but once again, not everyone takes credit cards. Got some awesome pictures as we were pulling out of Colon late (Panama Canal Tour and Panama City Tour were the two late coming back). It was a good tour to do with the kids, but if money had not been an issue, we would have done the Two Oceans by Train. My parents did it and thought it was wonderful, but there was no way I could afford over $600 for my family to take one tour!
The Silver Olympian Dining Room
We had absolutely wonderful service!! We had the first sitting (5:45), which would normally be to early for me, but because the kids were there it worked out great for Camp Carnival. Our waiters were Jose and Viktor. There were fabulous!! We had a table right by the doors (which worked out great so we could watch the kids as they went in to the bathrooms). We were also able to watch people be turned away for wearing shorts and for coming in late!! Yes, this rule was put into force. The maitre d's were Miguel and Larissa. They both came over and introduced themselves to my family. Larissa was known as my son's girlfriend the whole trip - she kept winking at him! Miguel taught the children it was fine to not eat all of your greens, and if they did not their punishment would be to forced to eat a lot of ice cream! He had them smelling their ice cream, then once the ice cream was on their noses, he had them trying to touch their noses with their tongues! He was definitely the best maitre d' I have ever had - I always was laughing at him!! Every meal I had was fabulous - I have pictures of almost everything! I can not pick out a favorite, all I know is that it is all good!! I don't want to forget out bar waitress, Katarina. She was also fabulous! She memorized what we all drink, and my daughter was so excited to get her first Shirley Temple - she proceeded to get them every night.
Harry's Supper Club
The food here was fabulous also, but I am sure my mother would say differently. I had done a lot of reading on here, and was prepared for the meal. I started out with the New England Crab Cake, the classic Caesar salad, baked potato as my side, surf and turf, and the chocolate tart, 3 dish thing. Before you order, the servers present the beef to you. I could not believe how large the steaks were, and my mothers mouth just dropped, as it also did when the dessert came (she ordered the same thing I did). She had the onion soup (did not like it), Baby Leaf Spinach and Fresh mushrooms, Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe horseradish (she really did not like those), New York strip (though was wonderful but could not finish it), and the same that I had for dessert. Overall I thought it was a wonderful meal and will do it again, then my mom says she wont do it again. Of course, two different versions of the same meal and service!
This was the first time I had ever had a professional message done. I was fabulous!! I had the Aroma spa Seaweed Float and massage. I definitely want one of these again!! It was extremely relaxing, and I could feel all of the knots in my back and neck gone when I was done. Nellie is the girl that took care of me. She was extremely nice and I was very pleased I had spent the $130 bucks (was a day at sea special). My mother also wanted us both to get facials, so I had that done too on another day. It wasn't as relaxing as my massage, but I now know what things to do with my face that I wasn't doing before - it just takes money!!
I thought Camp Carnival was excellent. The kids could not wait to go every day. One complaint though - all week long the kids had practiced for a talent show. The show was scheduled to be the last sea day at The Stage. We got there on time, and no one from Camp Carnival ever showed up. After 30 minutes, people started to get irritated and ended calling up to the Pursers Desk (we were in the back of the ship). One of the older kids at Camp Carnival ran up there to find a note on the door saying that the show was cancelled due to there not being enough acts. They said there had to be 5-15 acts signed up before they would hold the show. There were not that many kids on this cruise that took part in Camp Carnival. Apparently, only 2 children signed up for a talent, but all of these kids were planning on doing the group acts. That is not my complaint though - there should have been a sign or something at the Stage saying that the show had been canceled. It also did not help that it was listed in the Capers, and that Karl was on the speakers saying what time the show was!! Communication is key in any business!!
Debarkation I was a little concerned about debarkation - my parents had #4 and we had #5 - offloaded in two different groups. I went down to the purser's desk and had it changed - no problem. We had an 11:30 flight so that is why I was concerned. We were called to get off the ship just after eight. It was not too congested getting off (took about 10 minutes), went through customs (painless), found our luggage, and went out to the shuttle area. Of course I lost my parents again. They ended up down at the private car area. A nice gentleman who works at the terminal moved all of their baggage for them over to the shuttle area. It took about 30 minutes for us to get on the shuttle, and by then everyone but myself was complaining (I always seem to be the calm one in my family). We got to the airport, checked in (where once again I was in charge of taking care of everything), went and waited in line to get through security (complaining again), then to our plane. I wont bore everyone with the drama of the flight home, but I will say the flight was extremely turbulent, and at one point I was even afraid, and I fly the most out of everyone in my family.
Overall, this was a great trip! Other the Cozumel, I will probably never go to these ports again - they are a once in a lifetime experience. After cruising alone my first time, I think I have become spoiled - I realized I NEVER WANT TO CRUISE WITH MY FAMILY AGAIN!! Besides that, the service was excellent, the ship beautiful, the entertainment wonderful and the food yummy. I can not compare it to my cruise last year on the Imagination because they were two completely different experiences. All I know is that I am ready for a cruise BY MY SELF!!