Cleanliness Is Next To Adam G
Warning: Do not read this review if you're looking for negative comments about Royal Caribbean. With the exception of a few very minor (minuscule) complaints, you won't find them here. I also won't spend a lot of time going over things others mentioned in other reviews (beauty of the ship, meal details), as there's already so much on these boards.
Pre-Cruise: Flew Delta Airlines from Syracuse to Ft Lauderdale the day before. Arrived about 6PM, rented a Mini Van from Enterprise for the four of us and drove to Springhill Suites, Miami Airport South. Nice accommodations, took their free shuttle to La Rosa Cuban Restaurant for dinner - excellent choice. Decent buffet breakfast at the hotel - hot sausage, scrambled eggs and waffles, variety of bagels, pastries, cereals. There was a Walgreens a mile down the road from the hotel where we picked up last minute supplies. IMPORTANT NOTE: Springhill Suites will allow you to leave your car there free of charge for a week if you stay one night at their location, and will shuttle you free of charge to the port. You can basically spend a night in a hotel, have a free breakfast, and leave your car there for less than what it costs to park at the Pier for a week. This should be especially helpful for Florida & Georgia residents (others too) who drive to Miami.
Pier Arrival: Map-quested the 12 minute ride from hotel to port. Dropped off our luggage and teens, had a friend's aunt follow us to the downtown rental office to drop off the car. Enterprise rental blew it BIG TIME! They gave me an address on 2nd Ave for drop off. I had map-quested the location; I was given the location by the clerk in Ft Lauderdale. Only problem was, the location didn't exist!! We had to find Enterprise's number, spend 10 minutes on the phone, and then find (with no directions) their actual drop-off location. I guarantee you Enterprise will be hearing from me today. This took an extra hour of our time, which in the long run didn't affect us, but who needs an hour of aggravation?
Embarkation: Less than 5 minutes to check in, but then about a 45 minute wait to board (this was around 12PM). Not really RC's fault in my opinion - others were still getting off the ship from the previous cruise (Customs backup). Could RC have a better system for what to do with early arrivals? Possibly, but I can't imagine they haven't tried to come up with one. Again, to me its more of a US Customs problem than an RC problem. Write to your congressman and ask him to hire more agents.
Liberty Of The Seas: Absolutely beautiful and spotlessly clean. We headed for the Windjammer where we all tried the honey-stung chicken (thanks, Vicki, for the tip about it) and many other items. After lunch our staterooms were ready. There were five of us (h,w, 20 yr old son, 19 yr old daughter, 19 yr old friend). Two inside cabins (6521 & 6523). Very well appointed in the usual RC style - plenty of storage room for two or three people considering you can store your luggage under the beds. By the way, we usually book inside cabins in case it rains (that's a joke, son). Inside cabins do have a nice view - depending on the tv channel you choose you can view the Promenade or the Ocean. Nice flat screen tvs by the way.
Meet & Mingle: I would strongly encourage anyone taking a cruise to sign up for the Meet & Mingle and do some posting on here. Our M&M was held the first morning. We had a very active group corresponding with each other, and it was fun meeting everyone. Isolda from the Cruise Director staff gave out three bags of prizes - very nice of RC, and much more than I was expecting. Free snacks and beverages also. Meeting others through M&M definitely enhanced my cruise, and I would be honored to cruise with any of them again. Our six tablemates for dinner (including Princess Madison) were two families we had corresponded with on the M&M boards. Two other families of 5 had the late seating together. Both had requested smaller tables before meeting, but enjoyed each other's company so much they canceled their requested changes. I'll have some comments for all of my new M&M friends on our thread, I won't take extra time here, but truly, I enjoyed each and every one of you I had the pleasure of meeting.
Food: Certainly plenty of it and always satisfying. All breakfast and lunches for us were in the Windjammer (except departure morning in the Dining Room). I had wanted to utilize the DR for more meals - it just seemed the Windjammer fit our busy schedule better. WJ breakfasts and lunches didn't vary much from day to day, but that being said, there was so much variety that you could choose something different every day if you chose to. The Dining Room: we had a table for 11 people (we had met on-line through Cruise Critic's Meet & Mingle and asked for a table together, main dining time, Rembrandt Room. Between the 11 of us, we tried every appetizer, entree and dessert every night. There were no complaints about any of the meals. Prime Rib was served two nights; mine was better tasting and more tender the 2nd night - someone else had the opposite opinion. Lobster night - I think at least 6 people at our table had lobster - five said theirs was done perfectly, one had a tough lobster. All food was served hot; all vegetables, pastas and other items were cooked to perfection, nothing overdone which is truly amazing when you consider how many meals they're making at once. In the DR I noticed more pasta and chicken dishes than other cruises. While there's no doubt these entrees cost less than other entrees for RC to prepare, they were on the menu in addition to all the usual favorites. I had several pasta and chicken entrees - appreciated the chance for a lighter meal a couple of days. The pizza and paninis served all day long were excellent. I'm not a salad eater, but there were always several different types of salads available. At the other end of the Promenade, sandwiches, cookies and pastries were available 24 hours. I can guarantee you I never went hungry on the ship.
Free Beverages: I've cut way back on my soda consumption in recent months and didn't buy a soda card (everyone else in my family did). The Windjammer was the only place to get free beverages other than ice water (Sorrento's and the Promenade Café). The daily choice was OJ or Apple Juice for breakfast, lemonade or fruit punch for lunch/dinner. I didn't see iced tea served at all, although two at our dining table requested it for dinner and it was brought every night following without request. Oh, coffee, and hot water (tea bags & hot cocoa) were always available at the Promenade also. And, plenty of fresh fruit near the pool.
Entertainment: First Night Comedian was Michael Dean Ester, my all-time favorite ship comedian. The show featured a comedic juggler who also appeared the final night. The RC Dancers/Singers: I hadn't seen their productions in two years. Greatly upgraded in terms of designs, content. Some shows had mixed reviews (didn't care for the music or themes) from some we talked to. I found the shows to be quite enjoyable and well performed. No complaints here. The headline act of the cruise was Two Funny Guys - we had seen them before, and to me they're the best comedy duo currently appearing anywhere. Elsewhere on board there were various piano players, guitar players, a 3 piece string orchestra - something for everyone basically. The RC band played dance music in the lounges several times. Great Cruise Director in Allan Brooks. And, of course, an Ice Show unlike anything else you'll ever see on the ocean.
Nitpicking Time: For those who like to complain, here's my contribution. I like watching Karaoke - times for it were late (one night it began after midnight); that being said, I'm in my 50's and for most younger people, that's when their night is just starting. I would have liked more places to get a lemonade or iced tea. And, here's my biggest complaint: one night at dinner my wife asked me to pass the salt. Much to my horror, in front of me I found no salt, but two pepper shakers!! I was absolutely traumatized! Do you think I should sue? Should I demand a free cruise? I mean, really, just think what could have happened if I accidentally used pepper, thinking it was salt: I could have sneezed, knocking out my false teeth and embarrassing myself! (Oh, wait, I don't have false teeth). Anyways, yes, totally traumatic, and I hope everyone realizes this paragraph is written entirely tongue-in-cheek.
Excursions: we did the Golden Eagle Catamaran in St Maarten. You can find a separate review by me on the St Martin board, so I won't go into detail here, but it was greatly enjoyed. Some of our tablemates did a tour in St Maarten with Bernard and enjoyed it. Others did the Zip Line and Jet Skis in Labadee; we had done the slide and water park previously in Labadee but passed this time, although we definitely enjoyed both before. There wasn't much time in San Juan - we went shopping with some tablemates.
Staff: Five RC cruises, have never met anyone less than 100% friendly and helpful. Sidney, our Room Steward was excellent and talked with us every day. Everton, our Waiter was very professional and friendly. Here's an oddity: I don't remember our asst waiter's name - he did his job but seemed to be overburdened with duties (there were about 20 more waiters than assts - is that why?). Perfect example of how hard he was to find sometime - he wasn't there to get his tip envelopes - we had to give them to the waiter to give to him. All crew members were overly friendly. I had to go to Customer Relations the last morning because of a slight billing mixup (my mistake, not theirs). The crew member asked my son how he did in the Scavenger Hunt - he had asked her one question several days earlier, yet she remembered him and took the time to ask. I never passed a crew member in a hallway or in the Promenade without being offered a friendly hello.
Miscellaneous: I always try to do at least three things I've never done before when cruising, so let's see: The Flowrider was lots of fun (one of our M&M'ers liked it so much his family already booked another Liberty cruise). I had a mud bath when I did the Golden Eagle excursion. I did the sail-away in the cantilevered hot tub. And, I had dinner with a princess every night (2 ½ yr old Madison, who definitely enlivened and enhanced our dining experience). I'm sure there's more, but those come to mind right away. As my title infers, the ship was spotlessly clean. Children & teenagers were extremely well behaved. The pool deck was crowded, but we never had trouble getting a decent spot, and they did have a Deck Crew watching loungers to see if people were leaving items on them and abandoning them for several hours. The theater was very crowded for shows - get there early if you want a good seat. Here's a neat thing: you can do your own Karaoke in a private room and buy a video of it. You can also buy a copy of yourself performing Karaoke in public - our son's rendition of Hotel California is now forever preserved on DVD.
Conclusion: we booked another cruise on board (although, getting home and looking at our schedules we'll have to change the date). Most of the M&M'ers we talked to also booked a future cruise. That should give you an idea of how much we all enjoyed it. I think it will be difficult for me, personally, in the future, to have a better cruise experience, as this one was near perfect. Thank you, RC, you have a very loyal customer here, deservedly so.