OVERVIEW This sailing was on the Liberty of the Seas on April 12, 2008 for 7 nights. The ports included San Juan, St. Maarten and Labadee. This was my 8th cruise and I traveled with an old college friend (our 3rd together).
PRE-CRUISE As an active member of the Cruise Critic roll call, I had the chance to be introduced to some amazing people for the months preceding the trip. It was fantastic to arrive in Miami and spend the morning before the cruise with several of the roll call members.
EMBARKATION My flight arrived at about 8 a.m. from Atlanta. I waited about 30 minutes after getting my luggage and took at taxi to the cruiseport in the hopes of checking in my luggage so that I wouldn't have it with me the rest of the day. I arrived at the cruise port at about 9:15 a.m. and even though it was a bit chaotic as the previous cruise group were departing, a porter took my luggage without a problem.
After spending breakfast with my new Cruise Critic friends at Bayside, we took a shuttle over to the cruise port around 11 a.m.. Initially, everything was easy and we made our way through the document line and security very quickly. Check-in was easy but then we hit a snag. Due to some sort of security issue from the previous cruise, we ended up waiting in the small terminal for about 90 minutes before we could board. We weren't given a lot of information, it was basically standing room only, and the lines were wrapped around and around. We were finally on board at around 1 p.m.
LIBERTY OF THE SEAS - SHIP Wow! What a great ship. The amenities were amazing, the Promenade was dazzling, and the décor was very tasteful. The humorous part was walking the hallways and then finding these random pictures of movie stills. They seemed totally disjointed and you missed them the first few times down the corridors.
Cabins We had an unusual cabin of being forward facing - room 6204. We had a nice sized round window that overlooked the heliport. The cabin was small compared to other ships we had been on. At first observation we thought we wouldn't have enough storage, but we found a ton of storage space and nooks and crannies. We had brought a power strip, but there were two outlets and the hairdryer was hard-wired, so we ended up having plenty of electrical space. There was even ample storage in the bathroom.
Food and Dining The menus were fairly different than the versions I had seen on this website (or links) before. They had switched out the days of some and also changed the items on many. The food was mediocre in the Windjammer and in the Dining Room. Chops was amazing - worth the $25.
I am not a pizza eater so I unfortunately didn't go to Sorrento's early in the week. When I did make my way there, I found wonderful marinated vegetables and olives. They have many other items than just pizza.
I did not partake of Ben and Jerry's (although my roomie did daily!) and I also did not go to Johnny Rockets.
Seating in the Windjammer was often overcrowded - but here is a great tip - - during breakfast and lunch, they will let you sit inside Chops. It was very quiet and easy to find a table in there. They brought beverage service to those tables as well. The Liberty of the Seas staff takes Norovirus very serious. Before you enter the Windjammer or the dining room, you are handed a Purel wipe. This must work, because even with a very full ship (sold out and many 3rd and 4th berths), I did not hear of any outbreaks.
Of note, I have severe food allergies. The sous chef in Windjammer - Ivan, was amazingly friendly and helpful in assisting me during breakfasts and lunch. My maitre d and waiter in the main dining room made sure I had what I needed, but weren't as friendly about it as other ships I have sailed.
Fitness Facility I used the fitness facility on board for working out just once. I am a frequent user of the gym at home and was initially really looking forward to using it on board. I didn't have a problem getting a treadmill (around 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon) and I was able to use the studio equipment (balance ball, weights, floor mats) without a problem. What I didn't like is that the treadmills are facing forward at the front of the ship with a beautiful view of the ocean. However, every machine has a TV attached to it and completely blocks your view. This not only frustrated me, but because I didn't want to use it, actually made me a little dizzy.
Note - there is a great water fountain in the gym. If you bring your own water bottle on the cruise, fill it there if you want it on the pool deck (the bar tenders won't fill a water bottle).
Pools I prefer to always be in the adult only pool areas. The pool was fairly nice sized and fresh water not salt water. The pool water was REALLY cold - even on the hottest days. The cantilevered hot tubs were amazing - but not really hot - just warm and bubbly. This solarium is not covered.
The biggest problem in the pool area was the chair hogs. People would get up at before 7 a.m. and block off multiple chairs and then not show up again until after 11 a.m. The deck patrol ignored this and it was very frustrating.
Entertainment Our group of friends enjoyed trivia multiple times a day, especially the 8 a.m. trivia in the Schooner Bar.
The shows … the first night, the comedian/juggler was a disappointing first night show. The first singing/dancing production exhibited the players' talent, but the storyline was very confusing and I didn't enjoy it very much. Many people didn't return for the second production, "Ever After" but it was really fantastic - kids and adults alike would love it. As a nice addition, Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees gave a performance mid week. He still has a voice - but his stage show was so "rehearsed" it got old quick. The final singing/dancing show was the debut of a new one - called "In the Air". If you like Cirque de Soleil - you will love this production. The ice show was phenomenal and worth standing in line to get tickets!
After hours, my favorite place to be with my new friends was Hoof and Claw to sing-a-long with Mark B. The only problem is if you don't like to be around cigarette smoke - this is a smoking bar.
The Parade on the Promenade was fantastic - if you stand in front of Ben and Jerry's you get a great view. Bring your video camera. The other fun Promenade "show" was the 70's dance party - again, stand in front of Ben and Jerry's. It was packed and a lot of fun!
PORTS San Juan - This was my fourth trip to San Juan. My friend and I chose to do the Caraballi ATV Four Wheel excursion through RCCL. It was raining when we docked in San Juan and we were worried about how it would impact the trip. The drive to the Caraballi ranch was about an hour or so. Once we got there, we were given helmets and told to leave our backpacks, etc behind (only our cameras, water bottles). The two-hour ride was fantastic - although muddy - and the sun set during our ride. We were anxious to get back to the ship, but at the end of the ride, the ranch had a café and many people ordered burgers, etc. This was frustrating, because we should have gotten back on the buses earlier. After the 45 minute ride back to the ship, we didn't get back until almost 9 p.m. Most people missed dinner ….
St. Maarten - This was my second trip to St. Maarten. We slept in a little and then went ashore around 10:15ish. We took the water taxi across to Front Street and meandered around for about an hour or so. Then we met up with our excursion which we booked independently. We signed up for a three-island snorkel trip through Captain Alan and purchased transfers from the cruise port through his service. The organization of the trip was great, and the snorkeling was pretty good … the bad part was that the boat ride from the marina (at Oyster Bay Beach Resort) out to Pinel Island and Green Cay was VERY rough. We had taken Bonine ahead of time and still felt queasy. We often found ourselves swimming against current and therefore were pretty exhausted at the end of the day. I have snorkeled often, and this was one of the roughest in terms of the water.
Labadee - Unfortunately, it was very over cast the day we were in Labadee. The tenders are quite large and take a few hundred people at once - so it goes quick (they don't use life boats). We had booked the Waverunners through RCCL. It was well organized - just a little frustrating as we had to watch a 20 minute safety video before getting on the waverunners. The excursion was a lot of fun! There are small lockers you can rent there, too. After the waverunners we took the tram to the last stop and found a quiet cove to be on the beach. We tipped a guy a few dollars and he brought lawn chairs down to the water for us. All of the hammocks were taken at that point (but I got one later). There are plenty of bathrooms, and beverage huts throughout the island. The buffet lunch was mediocre and the lines very long. It was fun to watch the zip liners as they landed behind the picnic pavilion where we ate. The Haitian market is overwhelming and the sellers fairly pushy - but a simple "no thank you" firmly a few times, and they backed off. You can avoid the Haitian market completely if you want to. I wish it were sunnier that day - I didn't get into the water completely - but it was warm.
OVERALL I loved this itinerary. Between the three sea days, the late docking in San Juan, and a beach day in Labadee - there was so much relaxation! The ship was clean, the staff courteous, and the amenities great. What made this cruise truly fantastic were the wonderful friends I made through the Cruise Critic Roll Call - thanks Leid Back Liberty Lushes!