HOTEL INFO/TRAVEL TO PORT We stayed at the South Seas Hotel on South Beach the night before departure from Miami. Touted as a boutique hotel, I was concerned it might be a little TOO boutique for me, but I was so pleasantly surprised. It was clean, smelled great and the beds were so comfy. It's right on the beach and only two blocks from Lincoln Road Mall where you can find all sorts of shopping and dining. The cab ride for six of us to the port was only $25.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the port at 12:10 because our info told us you can start boarding around 12:30. We stood line a while before finally getting upstairs to the check-in, but it wasn't that bad. Disappointing, though, was the big deal they make over your FUNPASS...and we didn't even need it. We appeared to have stood in the same lines as people who didn't have FUNPASSes, so we were a little confused why we went to all the work to move to the "expedited" line. Once at the counter, it only took a matter of a few minutes to get us checked in and we were on our way. Different, though, than other ships I've been on, you must get in another line before entering the ship. You actually get on the ship, get in line and then show them your passport and Sail and Sign card. Different than other ships we've cruised on, it seemed like we were always in line for something.
FOOD Speaking of lines...I've never stood in line for my meal as long as I have on this ship. Most mornings we waited up to 20 minutes just to move through the hot line...and that didn't count getting your pastries or drinks. By the end of the cruise, I opted not to eat breakfast because it was taking too much time out of my day. The food in the buffet was "so-so"...it was your standard fare, but I guess I expected a better variety, especially when it came to fruit. There was nothing spectacular about the food, and that was a little disappointing. Maybe I'm comparing everything to my prior cruises on Disney and HAL, but I can honestly say they had some entrEes that you looked forward to every day. The grill food (burgers, fries, ice cream, etc.) was great and to avoid the long lines in the buffet, we migrated toward the grill most days. Having read the boards on Cruise Critic prior to sailing we discovered the Fish and Chips grill on Deck 10. It's such a little known spot with awesome seafood variety...we hung out there when we were tired of burgers. And seating near the Fish and Chips is quiet and you can always get a seat...it's a must!!! For dinner, we ate in the Golden Olympian dining room every night but one. The food was great, but we were disappointed that it always took more than 2 hours to eat every night. For some reason, we were the last table served. Our steward was very nice and accommodating, but there was nothing speedy about the service we were provided. I would highly recommend the chocolate melting cake (ate it every night!), pumpkin soup, shrimp cocktail, and prime rib. Oh, and I should mention the unlimited drink card. For adults its $47 plus 15% gratuity. Figure out how much soda you drink before you purchase the card. I found that purchasing a $1.50 can a couple times a day came out much cheaper...and I got to have the entire can. If you get the drink card, they must pour it in a glass and serve it to you that way. I like my soda straight from the can, so I was happy with my choice.
ROOMS This is the place where I give Carnival the thumbs up when I compare rooms to my other cruises. The rooms were spacious and the storage was OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!....there was so much. I pack a lot and I always run out of drawers, cabinets, etc. In our room (6279), I was amazed that after trying to use all the drawers there were still two big ones that I couldn't fill. There are nice amenities on the sink, unlike other ships. Beach towels are provided in your room and replaced when you want them to be. Our steward always kept our ice bucket full...and we never requested it. The only thing we struggled with was the one outlet. It just wasn't enough for a curling iron, shaver, battery charger and other things you tend to do all at the same time. Our room was right by the elevator near midship, so the 9-story atrium was right outside our door. The location was great...not too far from either end of the ship. Yes, you can hear the live music in the atrium until midnight (I think), but most nights weren't ready to sleep by then anyway. If you go to bed by 10, you'll want to book your room away from the atrium because it is loud.
CHILDREN'S CLUBS We didn't take the kids this time, but we did stop by to see how they compared to the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic. It's probably obvious that not much compares to Disney. My kids were disappointed they couldn't join us on the trip, but after seeing the kids camp, they would have been disappointed to spend a week in there. It was nice and clean, and the staff was friendly, but it just didn't have a great variety...or at least it didn't appear to. To me, it looked more like a daycare than a kids' camp for a week. Again, we didn't utilize it, so it might be more dynamic than I realize.
SERVICE Everyone is nice, but it seems like they ship's folks don't interact with you as much as other ships. We didn't really talk much with our dining room steward and none of us could remember his name by the end of the trip. Again, he was very nice and accommodating, but I wanted to get to know him a little better. We did get to know the women in the jewelry store on the ship. We found ourselves stopping in daily just to say hello. They were a treat!
SHIP INFO The Liberty is beautiful!!!! Hands down, this is one of the prettier ships. It is one of the more confusing ships I've been on. To get from the back to the front, there are a couple of decks that you have to go up or go down to move forward. It's like a chess game, but after a couple of days you'll figure it out. The 9-story atrium is beautiful and is definitely a highlight. The multiple decks for tanning are nice too. There are lounge chairs at all levels...many more than any other ship I've cruised on.
ACTIVITIES As mentioned before, I cruised with a special group of more than 800 who had daily concerts with special music guests, so ship activities weren't at the top of my list. When I did have down time from our concerts, I really wasn't that impressed with the planned activities...so I went to the casino and played the penny slots. Seriously, you can win on these ships. Some lady on the second day won a BMW on the 2 cent machine.
DISEMBARKATION Went smoothly. We were told to go to the Lounge if we had an early flight and they would get us off with priority, but that didn't happen. We were group 12 to disembark and it got us off with plenty of time. I think we were actually standing outside by 8:30. It was a smooth process.