We just got back 1 week ago from our fabulous cruise. This was our 3rd cruise; we previously sailed on RCCL Mariner of the Seas, Carnival Miracle. I sailed with my husband and our 9 year old son. We did not bring our 1 year old daughter with us this time; she spent a fun filled week with her grandma. We left out of NYC-JFK on June 28th. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and took Carnival's shuttle to the port of Miami. The cost is about $48.00 each roundtrip. We had a good flight although I hate flying now-post 9/11. However, once we arrived and proceeded down to baggage claim we immediately saw several Carnival representatives. One of whom accompanied us to retrieve our luggage and then directed us to the next person who led us to the buses to take us to the port. Our driver was great and hilarious; however he cordially announced "please don't forget the driver." We were told the ride would be about 45 minutes; however we arrived within 30 minutes-SMOOTH. When we arrived at the port with trying to retrieve ALL of our luggage and giving them to the porters, and seeing the horde of people I thought OH BOY!! However, the line was long but moved so quickly. I do not think we were in that first line 15 minutes. Afterwards, we immediately went through the metal detectors, then on to the room where you line up to receive your sign and sail cards, etc. There were only 3 or 4 people ahead of us and then our turn. We showed our passports and credit cards, registered and off we went to board. We were giving a boarding number, I thing we were "group 14", and at this point they had just called group 12, so less than 10 minutes we were going up the escalator to the wear our embarkation photo was taken. Next was a small line up to actually getting onto to the ship in which we had our cards dipped into the machine with our photos taken to validate. All in all embarkation was about an hour give or take. Definitely not bad, especially considering from what I heard about leaving from Miami, I was expecting it to take much longer.
Upon entering the Liberty on the deck 3 we were so excited to see the main atrium and happy that we finally boarded. The Liberty is absolutely beautiful. Just a little side bar information about me, I have a preference to the bigger, newer ships. Yes it's true, the first couple of days we had to get use not being able to go all the way through from front to back on decks 3 and 4. However, the Liberty is not a hard ship to learn your way around after the 2nd day. I will now break this review up into sections of interest:
Ship Decor and public areas: again beautiful and big. Deck 5 goes all the way through from front to back and also have the casino which can be quite smoky. However, what I liked is that to walk through you did not have to go through the casino as there is the walkway on the side with windows and big comfortable seats for people watching or whatever you fancy. We had the Main (early) 2nd seating in the Golden Olympic Dining room (see food section). The dining room is beautiful and our wait staff was Marcin (pronounced Mar-cini) ?? and his assistant Yohanes, we were at table (booth) 137. If anyone has them on an upcoming cruise please tell them that "Miss Michele" and Sly said hello and we miss them. They were absolutely the best!! They were the best wait staff we've had on any cruise. They were very efficient and had great personalities. Plus, it may not mean much to most, but I was really happy that they were personable and remembered our names. Fernando was the Maitre 'D, and I have to say of all the cruises we've been on, he was the most personable and vocal. Normally, when it comes to the gratuities I do tip the Maitre 'D just because of the protocol, but afterwards I would kinda scratch my head and think we just tipped someone who we only saw from a distance maybe once. However, this time on several occasions Fernando made his rounds and stopped at each table to introduce himself and asked how things were going and to let him know if it was anything that he could do. He was also in the dining room making announcements each evening. This time I absolutely had no regrets with tipping him and we actually went to find him on the last night to extend our well wishes and gratuities. However, he wasn't too hard to find as he was right near the entrance. (hahaha)
Cabins: We were in cabin 1362 which is on the Riviera deck (deck 1) and it was perfect. The beds and the bedding were to die for, absolutely plush and very comfortable. There were plenty of drawers and closets for storage. Our suitcases fit with no problem under the beds. There were actually 3 closets. The bathroom was small (of course) but nice with body wash and shampoo dispensers in the shower. There were also trial size samples of toothpaste, his and her razors, pepcid, and some other stuff. Our cabin steward was great. I am so sorry that I never did catch his name though. However, he did a great job with cleaning the rooms twice a day, filling the ice buckets twice a day. My son loved coming back to the cabin at night and seeing the different towel animals along with chocolates on the pillow, I love the turn down service. The television worked fine, however I was curious as to why all "local" stations and news was for Denver, Colorado? Oh well we definitely were not on a cruise to stay in our cabins to watch tv.
FOOD: Everyone's favorite subject (it is mine). Well how do I begin...Over all it was good with plenty of room for improvement. If you want a sit-down breakfast it was in the Silver dining room, which is even more gorgeous than the Golden. The service was hit or miss. Most of the mornings the service was great. Just the last 2 days did I notice a decline-starting with the host who does the seating arrangements. The two areas Carnival must improve upon for breakfast is the orange juice (WAY TOO WATERED DOWN) and the coffee. I hate to say it, but except the day we were in San Juan in which we ate breakfast off the ship I did not have a good cup of coffee the entire time. I should say I did not have a good up of coffee that was included and free. On deck 5 there is stand that sells better coffee and lattes, cappuccinos and things like that along with some other cakes and cookies. I tried those last times on the Miracle and didn't really care for them, so this time I did not buy anything. However, I should have at least bought a real cup of coffee from there, but good coffee should be served through out and be part of "all inclusive" cost that is already paid. Only one morning did we have breakfast on the Lido deck. Needless to say after that experience I did not have breakfast up there again. The food was good; however there is a long wait for the omelet station, then when things ran out, there was a wait for it to be replenished. Also, it was too chaotic with the other guests some of which were rude line jumpers. For lunch we only ate up at the Lido deck. One of the best kept secrets is the fish and chips station. Oh my goodness, those fried fish filets with fries were the absolute best but due to my shellfish allergy that was all that I could eat. However, my husband on the other hand had a field day. He loved the boubaisse (sp?), the fried oysters, octopus salad, etc. There are 2 grill sections with the best cheeseburgers along with hot crispy french fries, along with hot dogs, onion rings, chicken tenders (were good) and nachos and melted cheese sauce. Each day I was great with the items at the grill for lunch along with the fish and ice cream that's available 24 hours a day. For dinner, we ate every night in the main dining room. We originally had reservations for Harry's (the supper club-additional $30 charge) for my birthday. However, we made great friends at the booth next to us (HI ANNEMARIE AND MIKE AND MIKE JR) and we enjoyed talking to them each night and we enjoyed our wait staff. The 2nd formal night was the night of birthday, also the food for the most part was good, and therefore we just didn't see a reason to go to Harry's after all. I will tell you some of the dishes that I liked as well as the ones I did not. I loved the warm-chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream on the side. YUMMMYYY!!! I also liked the prime rib, the BBQ ribs, jerk pork, filet mignon, the grilled pork chops and some of the cold desserts. I did not like the salmon the one time I ordered it. I was disappointed with the desserts. Thank God for the warm-chocolate melting cake. For the most part the food was good, but it could definitely be improved upon. We only did a few late night buffets, the night of the Mardi Gras deck party we went to Mexican buffet set up on the Lido deck afterwards. It was okay. We attempted to go to the Grand Gala Midnight buffet, however the line was just too long and I was so tired from "colors hop" party, and the deck party. On thing that was delicious was the chocolate buffet on the last sea day. I think I gained 20 pounds from that one. (hahaha) There were about 7 different kinds of chocolate cake, there was a chocolate fondue machine for fruits, and other things-even freshly made donuts. That was the best. They had different flavored ice creams and milkshakes, chocolate cheesecake, different truffles, homemade fudge, candies, some chocolate raisin pudding that I did not try. There were so many things that I cannot remember them all at the moment. However, I do remember enjoying myself and trying lots of things.
Ports of Call: We went to the Eastern Caribbean: San Juan, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos (Grand Turk), Half Moon Cay, and St. Thomas. With PR, I wanted to eat breakfast at a local joint called "La Bombonera" that I heard a lot about. After getting off of the ship we walked to the next corner and caught a free trolley that went to El Morro and the shopping area. We saw the fort and it is an amazing view. We then got off near Calle San Francisco (street) and went to La Bombonera. We had the famous mallorca pastries and they were GOOD!!! I wish I could then fresh here in New York. Next we walked to Calle Cristo, which is a main block for shopping. I went to the Coach outlet and purchased several birthday gifts for me. (smile) Later we tried some pina coladas at the famous Barrachina's and it was very good. We bought a few souvenirs, took some pictures and back to the ship. Half Moon Cay was actually our first stop which was a beach day. We took the tender over, not too bad. The beach is beautiful with pretty sea-blue/green water that was the perfect temperature. However, because I do not know how to swim, I did not go too far in. Calf-length high water is about my limit. Here is where Carnival sets up the beach BBQ at the dining pavilions. The food consisted of chicken, burgers, hot dogs, salads, fruit, brownies, etc. The menu was limited but plenty of food. However, what I ate did not agree with my stomach, that along with the heat and I was ready to head back to the ship. St Thomas (2nd port): we took a shuttle into downtown Charlotte Amalie for $4.00 each. After which we walked around and looked in the shops, bought a few souvenirs and then went on a tour with one of the cab drivers. His name was Henry and he was great. I have his contact info if anyone needs it. He took us through different parts and there were many sights to be seen. We stopped at the famous "Mountain Top" and had one of their famous banana daiquiris. If definitely lives up to its hype. It was great being so far up and the views were magnificent. The drive up to the top was a bit scary for me. But Mr. Henry was very efficient and very nice. We stopped to buy souvenirs and we went to Drake's Seat/Castle (??) All in all it was a good day and it was nice. However, in the beginning it is a bit overwhelming in the shopping areas-just way too many stores and way too many people, along with a lot of sun. Our final stop Grand Turk: We were docked so close to the new cruise terminal, that after disembarking it was walk along the pier. We did not do any tours here. We just stopped and had lunch at Margaritaville's. We went to the beach that's right there. I must add that the beach here looks beautiful, but once you're on the beach it is too rocky and too much seaweed. Also there were not many seats if any left, and nothing in the shade. Therefore, hubby wanted to get sun and stay on the beach and I was hot and tired. So I left Hubby to relax on the beach while I went souvenir shopping at the different stores at the terminal. Besides it was Thursday (my bday) and I wanted to get back and dressed and be ready for formal night. There are much prettier beaches in Turks and Caicos.
My birthday, I will keep it short. My dear husband and son had our cabin decorated for me by Carnival (it was really nice) and he ordered a dozen of long stemmed red roses. Also at dinner he surprised me and had the waiters bring out a delicious birthday and everyone sang happy birthday. It was so nice, and I did get a little teary-eyed. Cool points for hubby!
Cruise Director and activities: On Cruise Critics it said that Steve K was the cruise director. However, it was Karl with a K. And we were very pleased. Karl is the absolute best. I hope he is the CD on our next cruise. Carnival is definitely the fun ship. We love the different activities, especially on the sea days. We really loved most of the night shows: the tribute to Motown, the juggling act-yes it was very good and hilarious, the comedians especially Percy Crews. His family show act was funny, but the midnight adult show was on a whole other level, we laughed too hard the whole night. With the teams we were the blue team. I believe one day it was mentioned that we were in the lead. But I don't know what was to be the end result and what was at stake. I don't even believe they ever announced who won?
Camp Carnival: What can I say; if it gives any indication of how much fun our son had...he only had dinner with us 2 out of 7 nights. The 1st night because it was orientation, and on my bday. The counselors do a great job, and keep the kids very entertained and very busy. They did everything from swimming, to scavenger hunts, to ice sundae making, candy making, pizza making, cake decorating, WII and other video games, tee shirt coloring, some chocolate game, on Thursday night was the "Ultimate Pajama Party" with at least 15 different things lined up for the night. It lasted until 3:00 AM!!! And on that night the counselors walk each child back to their cabins. Normally the parents pick them up unless you sign a form permitting a child from age 9+ to sign themselves out. Every night they have dinner for the kids to eat with the counselors and their new friends and go to a show and then back to the many other scheduled activities. Also each child received little gifts like a Carnival's CD holders, tee shirts, and other little things. It was great. And my husband and I had a lot of alone time to enjoy adult activities.
Disembarkation: Because we had initially booked a 12:00 noon flight, but a month before the cruise, the airline changed the departing time to 11:30. Therefore, the purser's desk gave us #2 luggage tags. We called to disembark around 8:00 am, found our transfer bus and were back to Ft Lauderdale's airport by 9:40 with almost 2 hours before our flight. We had a lunch at Chili's and just killed time. We also reflected on the great time we had and are planning our return cruise to the Western Caribbean next summer on the new Carnival Freedom.
This is all I can remember for now. I know this review was long, but I hope it was helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions. BON VOYAGE