Getting there: We flew in to FLL on May 29th and took Ace Tours and Transportation shuttle to Miami. We had reserved a ride and they were waiting for us at the airport. It took about 45min for the trip.
We stayed at The Royal Palm Hotel in Miami. What a pretty hotel, and right on South Beach. The hotel had some mixed reviews so we were a little nervous but everything was great. You can easily walk to Lincoln Rd which is full of shops, restaurants, and lots of people watching. There is a Walgreens and CVS right around the corner as well as a discount beach supply store "Wings" where we picked up some flip-flops (and an umbrella when it poured rain!). There is a little French bakery just on the corner (turn right out of the hotel parking lot) where we had a great brunch before heading to the Port of Miami on Saturday.
Transportation to the port was delayed as our pre-arranged shuttle (Ace Tours) did not arrive until about 30 min after the scheduled pick up time. It was about a 15 min ride to the port, and we arrived around 11:30 am.
Embarkation was really easy. The lines moved quickly and the waiting area is air-conditioned. We were in boarding group 8 and were called on board around 12:00. The first group was called at 11:30 so it would not have helped to be there much earlier. Lunch was already being served when we got on board. Some of us went to the fish and chips (just walk up the spiral stairs from the Lido dining room). We found the dining room near the fish and chips to be a relaxing and less crowded place than the main Lido deck the entire cruise.
We went directly to the excursion desk to book the cabana for Half Moon Cay for $199. We also inquired about the cabana at the Purser's desk but they did not know how to rent it. We got cabana #4 (but they could not tell us that until the next day). There was a fun sail away party on the lido deck (after the lifeboat drill). We had the late seating in the Golden Olympian Dining Room. Our waiters Ramil and Edgardo were very attentive. Try the vegetarian Indian dish (the head chef is from India); it is out of this world! And of course the melting chocolate cake!
Cabins: We were in Balcony cabins, Veranda Deck, #8280 and 8284, port side, forward (near midship). We had plenty of storage and living space. The shelves in the bathroom allowed us plenty of room. Our cabin steward, Peli, was very nice and accommodated us by opening the barrier between our adjoining balconies. He consistently called us by name when he saw us and made sure our teens were not disturbed when they were sleeping in.
Sunday, June 1st-Half Moon Cay! We were so excited to enjoy our private cabana! The ship was scheduled to be in port from 9am-4pm. We were told, however, that the cabana would not be ready until 10:30 (what a drag!). Let me say that we understand that this was the Liberty's first time to be at Half Moon Cay so we realize that they still have some kinks to work out.
The Carnival staff sent us 2 different directions for the pick up for our horseback riding excursion. We finally got picked up about 20 min late. After the hassle though, the excursion was unforgettable! The horses go into the water about half way up their backs! It was thrilling and well worth the cost ($79./person). The staff is really friendly and fun.
We got back to our cabana around 1:00 and had some lunch. The jerk chicken and the salads at the buffet were fantastic! The only drinks offered as part of the buffet were water, lemonade and punch. The desserts were pretty good. At 2:15 we were back in the water and enjoying the beach when we noticed the Carnival crew was in our cabana taking away the food and beverages. A cruise passenger approached them and asked if he could take the rafts that we had on the deck (part of the cabana package). The Carnival employee let the guy take our mat before we could get out of the water to stop him! Certainly there is still some education to take place with the employees!
Getting the tender back to the ship was a nightmare! We waited in line, in the sun for 1 1/2 hours to get back on board. Some passengers waited nearly that long to get from the ship to the island! Our entire group got quite sunburned while waiting to get back on board. The bar had stopped serving drinks by the time we reached that far in the line (3:15pm) and there was Carnival staff SELLING room temp water bottles to the people waiting in line. Next time, we will do what we saw a few of the other passengers doing. They just waited in the water until the lines were gone and then just got on the tender. Half Moon Cay was beautiful but the crew needs a lot of work to get it right there.
Monday, June 2nd-Day at Sea. There were plenty of activities to choose from during the sea days (gym, spa, games, hairy chest, etc). We didn't spend much time in the sun because we got burned the day before. Captain's Party--really marginal "appetizers" and drinks-very crowded. Formal night dinner was fun. The lobster was a little tough but the portions were generous. We attended the "Wonderful World" show-the dancers were great! We were surprised at the sheer volume of passengers who were out in the evening. The disco, piano bar, and karaoke were absolutely packed! It was almost impossible to get a seat in any lounge after 9:30 or 10pm when we were done with dinner. We spent some time walking around the ship. The Liberty is a beautiful ship and it was a relaxing way to end the night.
Tuesday, June 3rd-St Thomas. Everyone goes through immigration in St Thomas because it is a U.S. port. It is very easy and fast but became a little bogged down because some of the passengers did not show up to get checked. We did a little shopping in the market area downtown and then took a cab to Magen's Bay where we spent the rest of the day. The taxi rates are regulated so it costs the same to take an air-conditioned taxi as it does to take a group shuttle ($8/person from downtown). It is an additional $4/person to get into Magen's Bay--well worth it! Back on board-one of our group attended the beginning of the Motown Review and thought it was so-so. There were many rumors the next day that Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance for one song at the end of the show! They said he is a good friend of the entertainer (Jerome Dabney).
Wednesday, June 4th-San Juan. It was raining on and off all morning. We took the free open-air tram around the city and stopped at San Felipe del Morro fort. It was really cool exploring the fort--so much history! We stopped back in town for lunch before heading back to the ship. We did see Tommy Drake's juggling and comedy show--he is a hoot!
Thursday, June 5th-Grand Turk! By far, our favorite stop of the trip! We rented golf carts for the day and drove around the island stopping where we wanted. We ended up at Pillory Beach behind Bohio Resort. What a fantastic beach! There were only about 20 people on the entire beach. The hotel bar and restaurant are right next to the beach and had great food and drinks. We rented a kayak for 2 for $30. for as long as we wanted it. Everyone we ran into on the island was so friendly! People would wave or ask if we needed directions. Fantastic Day! Back on the ship--Elegant Night # 2. We attended the "Rock Down Broadway" show. Again the entertainers did not disappoint!
Friday, June 6th-Fun Day at Sea! Lots of activities available. We did the Amazing Scavenger Hunt Race--WE WON! We also participated in the Great Game Show with Carlos. Any event that is run by Carlos is worth attending! He is so funny and keeps everyone upbeat!
Saturday, June 6th--time to leave :( Debarkation luggage tags were delivered to the room on Friday night. Since we knew we were in the last group to debark, we slept in until 8:00. We were out of the room at about 8:30 and went to the lido deck for breakfast. Much of the breakfast crowd had dissipated by then, but most the tables were occupied by people waiting to debark. We went upstairs to the dining room by the fish and chips to wait. There was only one other occupied table up there! Very pleasant! We were called to debark at about 10:10, retrieved our luggage, and were waiting for our van by 10:25. Our van from Ace Tours did not show on time and told us repeatedly it would be "5 or 10 minutes more" each time we called. At 11:00 we just grabbed a taxi van for our ride back to FLL airport. The taxi was actually $25 cheaper than the quote we had gotten from Ace Tours-we gave the driver a great tip! In the future, I would not pre-arrange transport from the Port of Miami. There were tons of taxi vans and other shuttles clamoring for business at the port. We were at the airport by 11:45 for our 2:45 flight home.
Overall: The Liberty is a beautiful ship and we would consider sailing on her again. The lounges were not adequate for this itinerary though due to the large volume of passengers who wanted to use the space. The 15-17 age teen club (Club O2) was located in a very juvenile-appearing location more appropriate for 10-12 yr olds. Our teens did meet some friends there but did not stay at the club for many activities. We were surprised to find we were more fond of the Carnival Spirit (took it last year) even though it is a little smaller than the Liberty. We really loved the less commercial ports of Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk (but we are not big shoppers). The crew aboard the Liberty was the most friendly I have ever encountered on a ship--keep up the good work!