Embarkation This was my 23rd cruise on Carnival. We chose the Liberty as we had not sailed on her previously. Our embarkation date was November 14, 2008. We sailed the Eastern Caribbean, sailing to San Juan PR, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.
Embarkation was Miami, FL. After dropping off the rest of my party at the check-in building, I entered the parking garage at approximately 1pm - big problem. The parking garage was very full and many, many passengers had to drive around waiting for someone to depart from their space. Unfortunately, I had the honor of parking our vehicle on this trip. I ended up parking in a very tight spot for which I was not very comfortable, however, was not happy with the thought of continuing to navigate the parking garage. For $140.00 per week one would think that a worker or workers from the port would direct you to overflow parking, but on this particular day it was not to be. The price to park at the port is ridiculous!
Embarkation was extremely smooth, mostly because we are all Platinum members and received the VIP treatment upon boarding - a special lounge with very few checking in at our particular time. Literally, it took us from me parking the vehicle to being on the ship no more than 30 minutes. Great job Carnival!
As soon as we boarded the ship, we again made it our tradition to grab a drink (actually 2) at the atrium bar. Based on other reviews we had read on line we expected the décor to be very tacky, however, we were quite impressed with the décor of the atrium - and later almost the entire interior of the ship. We found the décor, overall, to be quite impressive.
After our 2 drinks, we made our way to our cabins to drop off our carry-ons. Our cabins were the standard Carnival balcony cabins with plenty of space to move around and plenty of closet space as well.
Food All of us felt the food was fantastic in the Silver Dining Room. We commented that we actually thought, overall, the food in the dining room was the best of any of our previous cruises. However, we did not feel the same about the Lido deck fare nor breakfast in the dining room. On the Lido deck, in terms of dinner, very little to offer as an alternative to dinner in the dining room. We opted for this choice only once during our cruise. The food quality and variety just seemed to be lacking based on our other Carnival experiences. On the one occasion we ate breakfast in the dining room, the service was cold and very disorganized. In addition, some of our orders were not accurate. Our Silver Dining Room restaurant wait staff were just ok- not the best, not the worst. However, the Maitre'd, Elvis, was fantastic! We requested a table change and he did absolutely everything to accommodate us.
We did regret not booking Harry's Supper Club on one evening. The $30.00 cost is so well worth it, however, we were so full most of the time and enjoyed the dining room fare so much that we opted not to make reservations on this trip. If you have not been, please do so.
Drinks For the most part, we're beer drinkers. 16 oz. Domestic beers such as Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite, etc. were $4.75. Prices are higher - not sure what they are - for imported beers. I do also know that they had a 12 oz. Coors Light for $3.75 (not including tip). Additionally, not all bars have draught beer, however it was offered in the atrium bar. I don't know the exact price but I do know the pint is a pretty good deal. As most know, there is also a 15% gratuity (a good value in my opinion) added to each transaction, making the total price of each beer $5.46. It might seem quite high, but in my opinion in line with other land restaurants. Most small mixed drinks were also $4.75 each, however, you pay extra for premium liquor. For example, Skyy vodka is cheaper than Absolut. A Skyy Vodka and cranberry for example, would cost $4.75 while a Absolut and cranberry is around $5.25 (not including gratuity). They do have drink specials every day so look out for those as well. Finally, they do a good job of pouring a generous "shot" in each drink.
Entertainment Not bad. We felt it to be a little less than average when comparing shows on other Carnival cruises. In the main showroom, while the male and female leads were not awful, at times it seemed as if they were screaming or slightly off key. However, the dancers were phenomenal! The show bands, again, were just ok. The female singer of both house bands seemed to lacking of any personality in terms of connecting with the audience. In fact, the night of the party deck she ended the song and did not even say good-bye, thank you for coming, etc. Nor had she warned the party-goers that this was their final tune. It just ended abruptly.
Cruise Director and Staff Our Cruise Director was Steve Knisely. He had a good attitude and contained a lot of energy. Others have given him very favorable reviews. We thought he was just ok, often bordering on tacky and obnoxious - too loud and spoke too quickly. He and his sidekick James were often not too professional. In fact, James would often rub his feet during their morning and afternoon show, televised on channel 16 in the cabin. We just felt their act, at times, was a little amateurish and unprofessional. On the other hand, they can seem down-to-earth and personable. They both do have good personalities, just a little goofy most of the time. Everything seemed delayed and rushed. I can see where some might enjoy their antics as we too thought they were at times funny. The remaining staff and crew were ordinarily friendly and attentive. Our cabin stewards were great! We could count on them to keep our room clean, fresh, etc. at all times.
Ship Appearance Again, we thought the ship was very clean and the décor pleasing to the eye- contrary to so many other opinions we have seen online. Workers clean constantly and do a great job of keeping this ship in tip-top shape.
Casino Lost a lot of money. However, a lady did win $25,000.00 on the 2 cent BMW slot machine. You have the choice of taking the BMW or the cash. She chose the cash.
Past Guest Perks We feel Carnival does the best in this category - save one area. Listen Carnival! I think when one books a cabin as to be announced (TBA) they should give consideration first to those guests who have traveled previously and the number of cruises as well as previous spending on board. I can assure you that I have dropped several hundred to several thousand dollars on my previous cruises between gambling and alcohol. Consideration for upgrades should be given to these "high value" guests first. For example, a lady on this particular cruise stated that her family was upgraded from a balcony to one of the new penthouses because they had been on 9 previous cruises. Members of our family have been on many more cruises, however, have never received more than a 1 category upgrade. I'm happy for the lady and her family, I just feel Carnival can and should do a better job in this regard. Aside from this, we again believe that Carnival has the best past guest perks of any cruise line on which we have sailed. We were amazed especially on this particular trip at the number of drinks offered at the captain's cocktail party and the repeat passenger party. We also noticed that the hors d'oeuvres were of much better quality than on our last several Carnival cruises. Great job Carnival! Early disembarkation was another great perk as were all the other little touches that go along with being a Platinum guest, "concierge" guest, etc.
Ports of Call I cannot comment on any of the tours as we've been to these particular ports-of-call so many times and have taken so many of the offered tours. We did not purchase any tours on this trip. We arrived in San Juan at approximately 4pm which was one hour prior to our scheduled arrival time. I think it would be a great idea if Carnival were able to give passengers more time in this port. We stayed in San Juan until 12 midnight. We then traveled to St. Thomas. We stopped in at a local bar had a couple drinks and then made our way up, via cable car, to Paradise Point - one of our favorite spots in terms of views. This is a great "picture" spot but you have to be willing to pay for it. It's a steep $18.00 per person to ride the cable car up to the top of the point- this price is just for the ride. Drinks and food (as well as souvenirs) are quite costly once on top. With our most recent trip, they appear to be hurting somewhat as it was not crowded in the least. If they lowered their prices somewhat I think people might be more inclined to visit this great spot.
Our last port of call was St. Maarten. We walked over to downtown, did a little shopping and then rested at a local bar and enjoyed a few beverages. The weather was perfect! This is one of our favorite stops. Princess' Crown Princess and the Carnival Freedom were in port with us this day.
De-embarkation As we are Platinum members, de-embarkation started at approximately 7a, record time! We were off the ship and on our return trip home by 8am. This was the best, and quickest, process to date.
Final Thoughts We have always considered Carnival as our cruise line of choice and we were not disappointed whatsoever in this particular cruise. In our opinion, Carnival's service, food quality and quantity, entertainment and value is beyond what we have experienced on other cruise lines. I'm sure it won't be long before we book our next Carnival cruise.