After a long 4 hour drive from St. Petersburg to the Port of Miami, I was ready for some R & R on one of the largest cruise ships afloat! I dropped off my luggage with a friendly porter at the pier, and parked my car for the week across from the terminal. It wasn't easy finding a space, but finally found a spot. The fee for this privilege is $140 for the week. I felt this was a bit steep, as if you park for the day, it is $7 per day, if the week, its $20 per day.
My previous cruise with Liberty's sister ship, Freedom of the Seas, I was a bit nervous about the embarkation process. My Freedom cruise embarkation took almost 3 hours in length, and was extremely grueling. My experience on Liberty, however, was just the opposite. I was onboard the ship within 10 minutes of arriving at the pier for check-in. Embarkation was so easy, I actually had to wait 15 minutes to check in to the Suite I had selected!
The Junior Suite I had selected was spacious, and boasted a terrific floor plan. There was so much more storage space than I had remembered from my Freedom cruise. A true walk-in closet, desk drawers and cabinets, and a mini- refrigerator. The bathroom was appointed with granite countertops, and non-skid decorative tile. The balcony was a third larger than the regular balcony staterooms, and could accommodate 2 lounges, a chair and a table. A pull out couch was also in the suite, indicating that this particular space could accommodate 3 to 4 persons.
This ship itself is a marvel. From the top exterior deck (12), to Olive or Twist Lounge, with a panoramic view of the seas and ship (14), the gym with all the equipment you could want, including a boxing ring and mens and womens steam and sauna (11). Deck 11 housed 3 pools, one for children only, one for families, and one for the adults. Deck 5 was the heart and soul of the ship. This was the Promenade. It consisted of shops, restaurants, a barber shop, and ice cream parlor and libation stations including elegant bars to swanky pubs. This is just a sampling of what you can expect on the Promenade. Deck 4 boasted a well stocked casino (although "winning" was not prevalent on my cruise) and the Schooner Bar, a terrific clubby atmosphere. In the evening a gifted musician, Jim, entertained until the wee hours of the night. Deck 4 (and 3) is also the location of "The Catacombs". This is a late-late night disco that seemed like it might be a fun after-hours venue, but honestly, once the midnight clock chimes, I'm off to bed! Deck 3 was the location of Studio B. This is where you can go to events such as the game show Quest, an 80's disco, and an incredible ice show. The ice show is a MUST SEE.
The main dining venue for breakfast and lunch is the cafeteria style Windjammer Cafe. Although the food was moderate to good, finding an open table was not always the easiest thing to do. I found this venue very crowded and a bit frustrating. Many passengers never figured out where a line started and ended, so alot of confusion day-in and day-out. This venue tended to be extremely congested. I will say, however, the girl that took custom omelette orders every day was extremely up-beat, accommodating and just plain happy to serve you. RCCL, be careful, another cruise line might make her an offer she can't refuse! This was the only staff member that would fit in on an ultra luxury line like Seabourn or Silversea, in my opinion. Breakfast and lunch was also available in the main dining area as well, but was not utilized by many passengers.
We were assigned table 291, late seating in the Rembrandt Dining room, table for 2. Our main waiter was extremely professional and couldn't do enough for you. The assistant waiter, however, was in dire need of training, not only in service skills, but professional manners as well. For example, my dining partner asked for a wheat roll, and instead of nicely explaining that there weren't available that evening, it was a plain "no". Incidents like this were prevalent throughout the cruise with this person. His name tag had his name as last name first, then first name. The tag on the table was the opposite. Because his first and last names could each be first names, I asked which one was his first, (I want to always address staff by name, when possible) he told me, and I then proceeded to call him by this name. By night 3 I was corrected by my waiter. He had given me his last name as his first. He probably found this pretty funny, I did not. I found this to be very unprofessional to a paying passenger. Our saving grace was our main waiter.
The food in the Dining room was either hit or miss. The soups were always good, but the meats tended to be extremely tough and sometimes grossly overcooked. I can't say I would rate this line as having good food in the Dining room. I guess when you are serving 3000 guests, you can't expect alot. Don't expect Royal Caribbean to enforce "No shorts in the Dining Room". They simply do not enforce this rule. It is a shame, especially on formal nights, to see many passengers in shorts or jeans. Whats the point of having formal nights, if they don't enforce the dress code? Maybe RCCL should change its policy, and go "Super-Casual" every night of the cruise, or strictly enforce the dress code. This is always a pet peeve of mine. The only other "problem" I found in the dining room was a misunderstanding regarding a wine package I had purchased. On night #1 I purchased a package that included 5 bottles of wine, to be used during dinner hours throughout the cruise. On day #5 I was told that this was the last bottle in our package. This would be true, except on day #2, we ate at "Chops", one of the alternative restaurants, and had purchased a separate bottle of wine off their wine list. My 5th bottle was to be consumed on the 6th night. This turned into a bit of a disagreement between myself, the waiter and the head waiter. It was resolved by the end of the evening, but became quite stressful. This was not acceptable.
Chops, the alternative steak house was excellent. A $25 per person fee is assessed per passenger, and includes the tip. The service was top-notch, and can only be described as on a level of a large city 5 star venue. Cozy, rich surroundings, unrushed courses, and fresh ingredients were on par with this venue. The wait staff, including the Host were some of the best I have encountered on any cruise ship. (I tend to cruise on the ultra-luxury lines, and the staff at Chops were at par) The only downfall was my main entree. I ordered Halibut, and although the presentation was lovely, it was tough and tasteless. (I should learn to stop ordering fish at an establishment that specializes in meat!) Luckily I ordered a filet mignon on the side, for a surf and turf, and it melted in your mouth. I would highly recommend "Chops" as an alternative venue on Liberty of the Seas. The other alterative venue is "Portofino's". For a $20 per person charge, you can enjoy fine Italian food. I called to make a reservation on the second day, but to my surprise, they were fully booked for the whole cruise! I cannot review this establishment as such.
During the day I enjoyed the Flow-rider. A fun onboard "surfing" machine. Lines were not too long, and the fun was plentiful. There is also an awesome 4 story climbing rock. Although I had the pleasure watching people enjoy this feature, I did not attempt the feat. On the nice days, and days at sea, the pool decks were packed. At one time there wasn't any lounges available. Several passengers reserved lounges with books, hats, towels etc. RCCL has a rule not to reserve lounges, but again does not enforce it. They do, however, enforce a $20 fee if you forget to return your towel.
I enjoyed the gymnasium with its state-of-the-art equipment, and the relaxing steam and sauna area for the men. I did, however see a towel boy, on two occasions, in the changing area, sound asleep. Maybe a different job, or earlier nights for this gentleman?
In the evening, drinks at the different venues were a great experience, for the most part. Olive or Twist Lounge had great views, and a great atmosphere, but the evening lounge performers were so loud, you couldn't enjoy the company of others. The Schooner Bar was always a hit, with great drinks, entertainment and terrific conversation. I tended to hang out before dinner at the Champagne Bar. The waiter was excellent, and poured a great drink, but the main bartender had alot to be desired. She tended to be stingy on drinks, rang up more expensive orders (when she actually poured the less expensive drink), and wouldn't honor any bonus bar coupons when asked. Her attitude was a bit fake, and by the end of the cruise, I vowed never to patronize a venue she worked at, if I ever ran into her again. After 40 cruises on all ranges of cruise ships, she is on the top 5 worst bartenders I have ever experienced.
The entertainment consisted of comedians, magicians, an unbelievable performance called "Encore" at the ice arena, and the Osmond Brothers (sans Donny). They were all excellent. I didn't have a chance to see some of the "regular" entertainers on board, so I can't comment on them.
All-in-all, if non-stop activities, family-oriented entertainment, decent (for the most part) food, and partying with 3000 of your closest friends are your thing, you might love the Liberty of the Seas. I personally have decided that the mega-ships aren't for me, unless I travel with a large group, like the unbelievable experience I had on Freedom of the Seas. I have never had a bad time on a cruise, and had fun on this one as well.
I hope you enjoyed my experience on Liberty of the Seas.