There isn't a cruise line at sea that welcomes passengers back like Royal Caribbean International (RCI). First day on board there were several knocks at our stateroom door; each bringing the following: One dozen American Beauty Roses, a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Champagne chilling in an ice bucket with two glasses, a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries, and finally a huge bowl of fruit. VIP treatment for "Diamond + frequent floaters" is wonderful and it signals a wonderful week to come: Exotic destinations, unique experiences with old and new friends on board!
The first surprise was to see Captain Charles Teige as master, since we had enjoyed meeting him on the Voyager of the Seas in 2006. What a pleasure to sail and dine with him again on the Liberty of the Seas. This lovely ship is well run and affords travellers such unique marvelous opportunities including the following: the Flow Rider, a surf simulator; the Ice Skating Rink presenting Olympic quality Ice Skating Shows; the Rock Climbing Wall, the nine hole Mini Golf, etc., etc., etc! This, our first review of the Liberty of the Seas, will cover the entire ship and point out some of its exquisite decorations.
EMBARKATION On Saturday I-95 traffic was bearable, we arrived at the Port of Miami at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance from the point of luggage drop off - all the way to our stateroom. Check-in was simple, then we were escorted to a waiting area from which the ship's crew took us on board. We were in our cabin in less than one half hour. This was all simple and no hassle.
THE SHIP This Freedom class ship, the Liberty of the Seas, is sister to both the Freedom of the Seas and the newest of this triumvirate, Independence of the Seas. The Liberty made her maiden voyage on May 19, 2007. She was built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Turku, Finland. Her gross tonnage is 160,000 and she is 1,112 feet long and 185 feet wide, with a draft of a mere 28 feet. She is approximately the same as the Empire State Building laid on its side - nearly four times the size of the Statue of Liberty and three times the size of the Titanic! She has a cruising speed of 21.6 knots and 15 passenger decks, 14 elevators, and can accommodate 4,375 guests. This cruise she carried 4,100 passengers and a crew of 1,360. This ship has 1,817 staterooms of which 1,084 are ocean view (842 of these have balconies). There are 733 interior cabins of which 172 have a view of the Royal Promenade. The RCI Royal Promenade concept, in both the Voyager and Freedom classes, is a village street in the interior part of the ship (with a Pub, a Barber Shop, Logo Shops, Boutiques and restaurants). This is an excellent place to stroll, shop, sit and read, or meet with fellow passengers. Next will follow a deck by deck description of the Liberty of the Seas.
Deck 1 has the medical facility and crew areas.
Deck 2 forward has the Conference Center and the Screening Room, plus passenger cabins and the first level of the Platinum Theater.
Deck 3 forward has the Platinum Theater with its gorgeous curtain "Pearls" with 13 separate panels, a total of 28 feet tall and 46 feet wide with seven statuesque female figures with head pieces and dresses of 76,000 hand sewn sequins and 4,000 Austrian crystals. Their shoes are of 4,000 ruby red bugle beads. The total effect is elegant. Also forward is the Art Gallery; mid ship is the "Catacombs Disco" with Harry Cardross' Stained Glass Windows titled the "Ravens of the Catacombs." Norse mythology call them Hugin and Munin. Simon Dray has painted the god Odin, who gave one eye in return for knowledge- his other eye is the sun. Dray also painted Frigg, Odin's wife. She was a strong woman who often got the best of Odin. Needless to say the disco is striking.
Next is the Ice Center and the Studio B Entertainment complex. Aft is the Rembrandt Dining Room which is the bottom level of the tri level restaurant. It is a RCI triumph, with a massive chandelier seen from all tiers. The triple staircase holds the bandstand which provides live music each evening during dinner.
Deck 4 has the Schooner Bar and the Casino Royale with its Hollywood, Casablanca and Oceans' 11 characters on murals ( Bogart, Bergman, the Rat Pack of Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr. and Dickinson). Artists Smolover and Zaiba call the murals "Casino." These two artists also did the primordial garden of glass floral sculptures in the Bolero Bar. They are fantastic giant agave blooms in warm colors of yellows and oranges. The Michelangelo Dining room is aft.
Deck 5 is the most used passenger center, since it has the Guest Relations Desk, Exploration Desk for shore excursions and the Shopping Desk and the Promenade with the following:Shops on Board (perfume, sports and logo), Ben & Gerry's Ice Cream, a Barber shop, Wine Bar, Hoof & Claw Pub, Cafe' Promenade and Sorrento's Pizza featuring antipasti, artisan breads, pizzas, and desserts of fresh fruits and biscotti! The walls inside have photos of many famous Italo-Americans from Caruso to Mario Lanza and Joe DiMaggio.
Aft is the Botticelli Dining Room with a mural of "Venus rising..." Forward is the Sphinx Lounge. Its entrance is flanked by huge statues of Pharaohs, while on its walls are murals of "Views of the Nile" and "Figures from Daily Life, Egypt" by Clarissa Parish. Look for the Novidis statue of Tutankhama, it is a representation of the one in the Cairo Museum. Its beauty is in black and gold.
Decks 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are mainly cabins plus the Business Services area, the Library, the RCI computers and the Concierge lounge all of which are located near the aft elevators.
Deck 11 forward has the fitness center and the Solarium with an excellent pool and two giant whirlpools which extend out over the ocean! On this deck there are 6 whirlpools, 3 swimming pools and the Sea Trek Dive Shop. Mid ship is the Sprinkles Ice Cream and aft are two specialty restaurants: Chops Grille, excellent filet and veal chops, etc. and superbly run; the Portofino, with Italian cuisine, featured a new menu with updated items; all the way aft is the Jade (oriental food) and the Windjammer Buffet serving all day long everything from soup to desserts.
Deck 12 has the Johnny Rockets Restaurant, a nineteen fifties railroad car diner, all chrome and red Naugahyde booths plus juke boxes with all the golden oldies. They specialize in hamburgers, hot dogs, French Fries, onion rings and old fashion soda fountain fare: Ice cream floats, sundaes and apple pie a la mode. Here also are the Adventure Ocean Youth Center, Fuel Teen Disco and the Game Arcade.
Deck 13 is the Sports Deck with a Rock Climbing Wall, Mini Golf and Golf Simulator, Basketball Court, Flow Rider (for surfers) and the Wipe Out Bar.
Deck 14 has the Sports bar and night club Olive or Twist, the 7 Hearts Card Room, Cloud 9 Club and the second Concierge Lounge overlooking the sea.
Deck 15 holds the Skylight Chapel which accommodates 45 people: Great for weddings at sea!
The ship is artfully decorated with designs too numerous to mention here. It reflects the excellent taste of RCI. Suffice it to say there is a surprise around every corner and in every stairwell.
CABIN We had wheelchair accessible cabin #7624 on Deck 7. It is a large roomy stateroom decorated very tastefully in teal blue and gold. When entering, the door is a bit too narrow for a wheelchair and we had to do special maneuvers each time. On the left there are armoires with both shelves and hangers and a personal safe. Then, there is a long desk/vanity with lighted mirrors.
When entering on the right there is a large bathroom with safety rails all around and a shower stall with a fold away seat. The mirrored medicine cabinet is roomy. Then there is a sofa, a coffee table, and an upholstered chair. RCI has a new bedding program featuring a king size bed, upgraded sheets and a nice duvet (the 20 pound variety, which is a bit too much for the Caribbean).
Two night stands flank the bed with two reading lamps. The far wall is all windows, floor to ceiling and a door to the balcony, which holds a chaise, two chairs and a small table. The balcony is extra long and deep, and very spacious. Our Cabin Stewardess was Evelyn Marcosa, the sweetest, and most efficient we've had. Brava!
SERVICE & FOOD The Hotel Director Christos Karavos is a very capable man who gave us much detailed ship data. We can't thank him enough. He runs an excellent ship, where service is always smiling and fast. We used Room Service every morning for breakfast and the RS Supervisors Theresa and Teeana should be proud of the prompt and accurate service.
RCI's Crown & Anchor Society has many perks to offer returning passengers in the way of cocktail parties, gifts (i.e. Caps and beach towels), concierge services by Pretty Shamu, Anthea Helmsing and Mario Reyes who preside over the two lounges on Deck 10 and Deck 14: Great service and cordiality from all three, especially from Anthea who made our dinner and show reservations and provide us with the Italian language newspaper. The lounges are open for breakfast 8-11am and cocktails 5-8:30pm. It is a nice way to meet new people on board and to connect up with old friends.
Most cruisers equate service with the treatment in the dining rooms and restaurants. This cruise Exec. Chef Johan Petutschnig was on board; he is another old acquaintance of ours. Feeding over 5,000 people every day is a daunting task, but he is up to it and he can be seen making the rounds of the many various venues daily.
The Captain's Dinner on Formal Night was exquisite escargot, Lobster bisque, Caesar salad, linguini Alfredo with truffled wild mushrooms (Mary's choice) and a perfectly done Filet of Beef (Vincent's selection). The Chef's Surprise dessert was a delicate mousse topped with a spun sugar basket filled with wild berries. What a way to end dinner with Captain Teige. Excellent conversation, delicious food and a sweet taste in our mouth.
Each evening we dined in the Botticelli Restaurant Deck 5. Head Waiter Myra Fuentes was constantly watching that everything went smoothly. Our Waiter was Pedro Arevalo and both he and his assistant Ning were perfect. They brought each course at a nice pace, but not rushed. The food was typical RCI, good quality and we are happy to note smaller portions. Vincent felt that the beef was not of consistent quality.
We especially enjoyed Sorrento's on the Promenade and highly recommend Chop's Grill where quality was top notch, with meat cooked to perfection, and served well. The Mississippi Mud Pie is the ultimate in chocolate. Food and service are alive and well on board!
ENTERTAINMENT This Freedom Class of ships has so many diverse possibilities for fun for everyone. For the sports minded there are unique items only to RCI venues like the Flow Rider: stand up surfing from 8-9am and 3-4pm and boogie boarding from 10-11am and 4-6pm. Then there is Rock Climbing Wall and ice skating. No other cruise line offers all of these. There are also skating, golf, jogging, shuffleboard and ping pong. For those enjoying gambling there are Bingo, poker and slots tournaments and other Casino games. For the less athletic minded, there is Daily Trivia, and a great library with many comfortable leather sofas and chairs overlooking the the Royal Promenade. This is a much coveted spot for viewing the many Parades on the Promenade.
The nightly shows include comics, variety shows and Broadway style musicals - all very entertaining. Cruise Director James Andrews keeps passengers informed of the many activities on board. James is very friendly and approachable. We cruise for rest and relaxation, but many cruise for activities and RCI has the best and most afloat. "Get out there!"
PORTS OF CALL Saturday: Port of Miami, FL Sail Away 5:00pm. Sunday: At Sea. Monday: At Sea. Tuesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:00pm Wednesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 7:00am Depart 2:00pm Thursday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:30pm Friday: At Sea Saturday: Port of Miami, FL Arrive 7:00am Debarkation
CONCLUSION We have cruised two years ago on the Freedom of the Seas, sister ship of the Liberty of the Seas, and were amazed by the immense dimensions of this "giga" ship and, most of all, by the many innovative features first seen at sea. However, now we spend more time going around and admiring the individual pieces of artwork which decorate the various areas of these ships. It is like visiting a museum. Each day we tour different areas, take the time to enjoy the interesting sights and learn something new. We rarely visit the ports of call, since we have been there many times, but we leisurely enjoy the ship. We are addicted to cruising. This was our 75th cruise and our 35th on RCI ships, thus it is evident that RCI is one of our favorite cruise lines. The main reason is that the perks and benefits offered to Crown & Anchor Society members are substantial, especially to those repeaters ("Frequent Floaters") who have achieved the Platinum and Diamond levels. We are looking forward to sailing on the newest of the RCI ships, Independence of the Seas, Nov. 29th. Other cruises already booked are the Norwegian Pearl, on Jan. 4th, Ruby Princess, on Jan. 24th, Celebrity Solstice, transatlantic cruise, on April 19th and the inaugural cruise of the Oasis of the Seas, on Dec. 12th 2009. Happy Cruising!