This is our second trip meeting up with family and friends for a winter getaway. On this outing Hubby and I met up with our group onboard as we were coming from two different states. Our goal: soak up some sun and have some fun whether it was on the beautiful Carnival Liberty ship or in the ports of call - San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola (Virgin Gorda), and Nassau.
Getting to Fort Lauderdale:
Our Delta flights to the port went smoothly and we got in on time, thank goodness, since we had to fly down from Indiana the same day the ship was to set sail. We got in line for taxi service right outside the airport doors. A constant stream of taxis - cars and vans stopped by the gentleman manning the stand, so we were off to the port in a flash. It cost us under $20 with tip for the two of us and our four pieces of luggage and carry-ons.
We got dropped off right next to a line of cages for the luggage to be stacked on. Hubby and the taxi driver unloaded the van, then hubby and I carried the luggage to one of the carts. A woman attending the cage simply put the bags on the cart. She maybe did 5 seconds of service, which we could have easily and happily done ourselves, then gave us a speech with the underlying idea that luggage wouldn't be safe if a tip was not given. Not a pleasant way to begin a vacation.
We got in line while it wasn't too busy yet. It took a while to work our way to the front, but once at the station to do paperwork, it went extremely fast. We were happy with the embarkation.
Like most everyone does once they get on board, we got something to eat and drink on the Lido Deck, wandered the ship, went up top to see the port and other ships around us. We also kept an eye out for our group.
Found our group sunning themselves and indulging in Drink of the Day and beer. Our family and friend's second Caribbean Leave Winter Behind tour begins!
The Liberty is very clean (other than the cigarette smoke on Deck 5), well maintained, and nicely decorated.
The only problem we saw with the ship is vandalism in the elevators. Idiots scratch names, or whatever, on the mirror finish of the elevator doors. In order to remove what was written requires, I'm guessing, a brush or steel wool to rub out the lettering. This takes care of seeing the word, but you can see that the area had been scrubbed. Not the caretaker's fault, and is understandable. We, and many other people commented on the stupidity of people doing things like that to a beautiful, very expensive ship.
Our one big complaint about the ship is the smoking areas. I wish the casino was enclosed as a room (kind of like those smoking rooms in some businesses and airports, etc.) so the smoke doesn't go into areas that are used by all passengers, such as the shopping area and theater.
Our inside cabin (2455) was on the Main Deck (Deck 2) Aft. The room is noisy when maneuvering into ports. My husband said the noise is from the thrusters. We didn't really need the wake up calls. The noise, while not the most pleasant sound to wake up to, is understandable and can be lived with since it only happens once each day at port and stops when the ship is situated.
The cabin is very nicely laid out. It has ample storage for luggage, clothing (shelves and hanging areas). In addition to the bits of countertop on the nightstands to set items (would have more room if the bedside lighting was on the wall rather than fixed smack dab in the center of the nightstand), there are a couple of counters - one next to the closet and the other with the vanity/television area. The bathroom is wonderful! Lots of light, shelving on the mirror so items don't have to set on the countertop. Our steward, Made (Pronounced Mah-Day. I hope I'm spelling his name correctly), was exceptionally friendly, always addressed us by name, always checked to see if we had everything we needed, and if everything was satisfactory. He always had a smile and he made our experience a happy and memorable one. Thanks, Made!
Buffets: Food was just okay. Variety was pretty good since each day had a different theme.
Pizza: I love pizza, but the pizza on the ships doesn't knock my socks off since it doesn't have enough sauce for my liking. When I requested extra sauce, I was told they can't heat it up on the pizza, equipment limitations or something? But I could have it cold. No thanks :(. Hubby liked the pizza though he prefers extra sauce also.
Fish and Chips: Hubby had chosen to eat at the buffet on Lido Deck, but I wanted to try the fish and chips everyone raves about. I ordered the fish and chips (plain) and some of the fried oysters. We sat in the dining area near the fish and chip area. This is a terrific place to get away from the noise, hustle and bustle of the dining area one floor below; so relaxing and nice to watch the ocean go by or read as you eat. Hubby ended up trying some of the food items and we agreed, it lived up to the rave reviews.
Dining Room: We ate our evening meals (except for port night in San Juan) in the Gold Olympian Dining Room - the one in the center of the ship. We had an 8:30pm dining time. We found this seating not to our liking since it was so late. We'll try not to have the 8:30 again. Others must have come to the same conclusion because some tables around ours were empty most, if not all, nights.
We thoroughly enjoyed the company of a delightful couple from Canada, Greg and Jane. We looked forward to meeting up with them each night, save for the evening we were off exploring San Juan, and catching up on the fun things they were seeing and doing. We had a blast, and hope you did too!
The tables and decor was just about perfect. I just wish there was a tad bit more room to maneuver around the tables when entering and exiting the room, that a band (which there are areas for on the upper floors in each of the two dining rooms) played in the background, especially during formal evening dining, and perhaps a few flowers for centerpieces. Nit-picky things, but they would cap off a beautiful dining experience.
There was a nice variety of foods, and I was totally thrilled to be able to enjoy a couple of much longed for favorites: pumpkin soup and diet orange cake. Found another item that I'll be dreaming of until we cruise again - diet coconut cake. All three foods are YUMMY!!!!! In fact, all of our foods were above average except one. The lobster I ordered. It was so rubbery/tough/overcooked that I could NOT cut it with a knife. Very disappointing since the only time I get lobster is when we cruise.
I guess we're corny, but we enjoyed the singing and dancing by the Maitre D and wait staff. We had a terrific waiter, Riyadi, and assistant. They were friendly and attentive. As always, I'm impressed that the dining staff remembers names and preferences since they have so many guests to care for. Thanks to Riyadi's insistence that I try an extra dish in addition to the one I ordered, I'm sure I put on an extra pound or two, LOL! He's so sweet! Our Maitre D was Miguel and he is the funniest one we have had on three Carnival cruises, and unfortunately, the only one whose name we know. He had the diners rolling with laughter. Thanks, Miguel!
Grand Gala Buffet
Looked good, but the only thing that looked appealing to me was the desserts, and by the time we got back to the buffet to eat, the desserts that caught my eye were gone. Hubby tried a few items while I nibbled on cheese. The Gala Buffet took place on the second formal evening. Viewing and picture taking was from 11:30pm to 12:30am with dining running from 12:30am to 1:30am. All well and good, except that the late-night adult comedy show begins at midnight, so it was hard for us (didn't seem to be a problem for everyone else, though) to get through the line to view food and get to the theater to find seats before the theater lights were lowered. I found it difficult to maneuver on heels in the dark so I passed on trying to find a seat for the show. I went out to the television area on the Lido Deck and met up with hubby after the comedy act.
Past Guest Party:
This was the first one we've been to, and look forward to attending them in the future. We did leave the party before the presentation because we'd made plans to watch [b]Wild Hogs[/b] with family members who hadn't seen the movie before.
Lido Deck big screen tv:
Wonderful! We watched the movies [b]Wild Hogs[/b] and [b]Miss Potter[/b] and some of [b]Meet the Robinsons[/b]. Loved the blue plastic chairs, which were so comfy to watch the movies from.
So much to do you literally have to choose between things and sometimes activities overlap. Of course, it's enjoyable to opt out and kick back on a lounge chair and people watch, read, close your eyes and listen to the music, or even fall asleep.
Main shows: Wonderful World and Rock Down Broadway were excellent.
Comedians: We attended the 10:30pm show of Anthony Acosta, who was good. Hubby caught his midnight show which he said was okay -definitely adult content. We didn't get to Happy Cole's show since we were off ship in San Juan. Singin' With the Big Band featuring Christopher Alan Graves was fantastic! Singer Marcus Anthony, who's worked on Carnival for 20 years, did a wonderful job along with Jimmy Boore and the Liberty Orchestra.
Lido Deck Music: Black Gold played each day. They were good, at least not as ear-deafening loud as past sailing musical acts, but their same set of songs gets tiring. It would have been nice Liberty had another act to rotate with this one during the day.Sea Cruz out of Myrtle Beach, North Carolina is awesome! I caught some of their performance one evening. Wish I'd been present for the whole thing! Definitely hope to see them again!
Ports and activities:
San Juan: This is hubby's, my mom's, and my second trip here. We really like this port and though we enjoyed seeing it at night, we'd really rather do this port during the day when the forts are open. We walked by the cemetery by Fort El Morro. We were saddened to see rude graffiti all along one of the walls and when looking down into the cemetery, we could see at least one top of a grave broken and a cross that had either broken off or been broken off. Sad. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe for supper. While during our walk after supper, we had one man ask us for money. We stopped by a store inside the port building to pick up post cards, Pepsis and water to take back to the ship.
St. Thomas: Several members of our group had been here before so we decided to catch a taxi/tour guide and see a bit of the island then go to Megan's Beach. Tour was short but sweet. Megan's Beach wasn't as crowded as I'd feared it would be. We all enjoyed our time here. Caught a taxi back to port.
Antigua: This was the whole group's first time on this island. Five of us found a taxi/tour guide and took a tour of the island. We loved it because the island was so clean of litter. Our tour guide was thrilled that we commented about it. We could tell he was proud of his home, and rightfully so. We were very pleased to have gotten the driver we did and with the tour he provided. We stopped by a little grocery store and purchased stamps. Did a bit of shopping before heading back to the ship.
Tortola/Virgin Gorda: This was the whole group's first time on this island. Five of us wanted to go to the Baths at Virgin Gorda so we left the ship and headed to the ferry station in town. We purchased three ferry tickets (2 adult and 1 senior) and transportation from dock to the Baths and back to dock for the price it would have cost us for 1 adult ticket through the ship. For shame on the excursion prices the ship charges! The upside of the higher priced, ship-booked excursions is that the guest did have more time at the Baths. Hubby said they left the ship just before us but he figured they probably had an extra hour at the Baths. We did have to pay for three park admissions once we were at the Baths, but still, we did well on our own price wise. One point to note: Watch the ferry schedule very closely, they don't run often enough if you miss the time you needed to catch. We didn't dawdle when we left the ship. We walked straight to the ferry station, had to wait for the next ferry, so we went across the street to do a bit of shopping. When the ferry showed up, we didn't take long for the boat to fill then we were off. There wasn't any down time from there - got off boat, rode to the beach, purchased access tickets, and then off for the trail and beach. We only had about an hour here, though we hadn't wasted any time once we left the Liberty. Too little time for me to go through the caves to the other beach. But I did see some of the caves and play in the sand a bit before we had to go back. Very much worth the hustle to get here.
Nassau: Five of us decided to book the ship's glass-bottom boat excursion. We had some time before the excursion so we joined the other two members of our group and headed to a beach across from the lighthouse near the port where Liberty was docked. The beach wasn't one of the top 10 in the world, but we found some interesting shells, sea glass (litter -broken bottle and jar glass whose edges have been tumbled over the sand until the sharp edges have been worn smooth) and interacted with some of the locals and other visitors. My brother-in-law had something squish out from under his foot! He decided it was time to beat feet out of that area in the water. Those around him thought it was hysterical! We had a wonderful time. Adults turned into children again :). Then we headed back to the ship for those of us going on the excursion. We walked all the way back to the ship just to find out the tour group had to walk all the way back to where we had just been - the entrance/exit gate to the port. If walking is a problem, ask about the tram that passed us (and did stop and offer to cart people if they wanted/needed) or where you can catch the group so maybe you won't have to do the trek to and from the ship an extra time.
Days At Sea: I enjoy two days at sea. To me that's just the right amount. This was the first cruise I read the capers and participated in activities. I look forward to more cruises just like this one - much needed and totally unforgettable!
Thanks, to my family and friend and Carnival!