Liberty of the Seas is RCI's newest and biggest ship. It has more facilities than any other cruise ship and those who appreciate the latest type of gimmicks will be more than happy with the experience. We have been on both Princess and Carnival cruises so I will compare where appropriate so that people faced with choices can understand the differences they will encounter.
Embarkation: we transferred from our rental care via the Hertz bus. Getting on the ship was reasonably smooth and took about an hour; not too bad given that over 4000 people are boarding. Times compare well to Princess and Carnival which were closer to two hours.
Our cabin was a D2 balcony which was reasonably sized, clean and well cared for. It was fractionally larger than the Carnival cabin which was also a balcony. Our Princess cabin was an outside so slightly smaller. In practice there is little difference in cabin facilities between the lines and you will probably be more than happy with your cabin. Cabin staff on all three lines have been exceptional and we have never have had a problem with cabin service.
Decor of the cabin and the ship was tasteful and slightly understated compared to Princess. Carnival specialize in outrageous loud and jazzy colors. On Liberty our dining room was in a gentle cream compared to a deep purple on Carnival that included pictures of nymphs and large bunches of alabaster grapes. preference is a matter of taste.
Food, as always was plentiful and there is buffet dining in the Windjammer cafe, burgers in Johnny Rockets, Formal dining in the 3 level dining room, 2 specialty restaurants, Sorrento's a pizza parlour and a place for genteel sandwiches and coffee. In addition hotdogs and burgers are served by the pools. Food quality was good and very similar in standard to Princess and Carnival. Overall, there is nothing to choose between the three lines in food quality. There is one problem that the food in the formal restaurants tends to be served warm rather than hot. I assume this reflects the issues in catering for thousands of people at once. Of the three, Princess delivers the hottest food which may be because they have anytime dining so there isn't the same rush associated with the two sittings. We tended to have breakfast in our cabin and breakfast coffee on the balcony with the temperature in the low 80s is heaven.
The on board entertainment was of a high standard and provided you are not expecting Broadway you will be very happy with the entertainment. In particular the ice dancing was outstanding and world class. The stage performers showed high levels of energy and commitment and the singing and dancing were good. Liberty has a full size theatre with electronic special effects but we did notice that the choreography on one or two of the shows was a little clumsy as they tried to do too much at once. Entertainment on Carnival and Princess was also of a very high standard and again there is little to choose between the lines.
Where Liberty scores is the additional facilities. Instead of the atrium in Carnival Miracle and Golden Princess Liberty has a Disney-like street! Lining the street are shops and restaurants, even a hairdressers. The Royal Promenade is the focus for many of the social activities and on two or three nights there were parades and singing and dancing. This arrangement does though have a weakness; the large number of passengers mean that any social activity draws in huge crowds and on the nights of the parades the promenade was so crowded as to be unpleasant. Overall, though the restaurants on the promenade make a very welcome addition as places for a quiet coffee, snack or light lunch.
Liberty has a very large rock climbing wall, a small ice rink and the wave rider (a surfing simulator). These will suit older children and teenagers but there are long queues for their use. My own view is that these are gimmicks which while superficially attractive are oflimited use to most passengers especially given the demand. I would have preferred the space to have been used for an additional pool and more sun-bathing spaces.
All the lines specialize in art auctions and my advice is quite simple, AVOID. The works on sale are over-priced and many have very limited collectability.
Prices in the clothing and camera shops were very high. While I expect batteries and memory cards to sell at high prices I was underwhelmed by the duty prices for cameras and watches. A mid-price digital Canon is no bargain at $300. Similarly a Diesel watch for $78 is about $40-50 more than you would pay at an outlet mall. In contrast Carnival has a pile it high and sell it cheap philosophy with loads of fun $10 and $20 watches. Carnival also sell sale T-shirts cheaper and their 'bargain' jewelry also seems cheaper. However the cheaper alcohol and cigarettes were reasonably priced although again Carnival did have some very cheap flavored Rums. In general the only bargains on any lines are the 'fun' items and even there expect the clothes and watches to have limited life; you would nearly always be better going to your local store in the sale or Costco.
We visited Labadee (beach), Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel during the voyage. The beach on Labadee is the nicest of the three we have visited.
Avoid going downtown in Montego Bay; it is the roughest of any island we have ever see. Either stay on the ship or take the tour of your choice.
In contrast Grand Cayman is the most affluent and refined of any of the islands we have visited. Downtown is clean and modern. Prices in the very expensive shops seemed reasonable.
Cozumel was also very pleasing with a good variety of shops and a large number of restaurants and bars specializing in Tequila.
Leaving the ship was slightly more painful and took over an hour. Disembarking is never easy and we have always found it a trying period.
Before my closing comments I would like to make one observation about tipping. I have noticed one or two reviewers who have been very critical of service. Often the reviewer is moaning bitterly about the fact that he asked for a martini to be served at exactly 40 degrees and it was served at 41 degrees or I remember one review where the entire voyage seemed to have been spoiled because he didn't get a bath robe. We have been on 4 cruises and never had anything but excellent service. The rooms have been cleaned spotlessly and the waiters have made every effort to give you everything you need. Virtually all their income is from gratuities so please tip the recommended amounts. If you have been very pleased with the service then consider giving a little extra. These people work 7 days a week for six months at a time and many are married and only see their wives and family for 2-3 months in any year.
Overall, we had an excellent cruise with perfect weather, 7 days of temperatures in the mid-eighties. A lovely cabin, good food and good entertainment at a price that is lower than staying at a good four star hotel. I would recommend this ship and the cruise.
However, RCT do sell at a premium to Carnival and Princess. For all the things that matter there is very little difference between a modern Carnival, Princess or RCI ship and I suspect the same for Holland and Norwegian.
Faced with a choice you should look at length of the cruise, ports to be visited and in particular age of the ship. Older ships are not as well designed so a 7 year old RCI ship will not be as good as a brand new Carnival Ship. Carnival ships are the 'fun' ships so the atmosphere is relentlessly 'jolly', for us this not a plus but younger families may very well find this an advantage.
If you are price conscious you will generally find more for your money with Carnival especially in Europe. The only downsides to Carnival we noticed were the overly bright decor and the forced jolliness.
For the record our next cruise in Europe is with Carnival but this is based only on price. If we had been able to get a bargain offer from any of the other lines we would have chosen another cruise.
Whatever cruise you choose you are likely to enjoy it barring very bad weather. For the money the Caribbean cruise is about the best value good quality holiday you can get bar none.