We were a party of two adult couples and this was our fifth and first cruise respectively. We had previously cruised with Carnival, Costa, Celebrity and Princess. This review is essentially of the ship and not the itinerary since we did not sign up for any excursions and stayed aboard in all but one of the ports. However, since you are unlikely to be signing up for the same cruise I think you will find the information here about Carnival Liberty useful.
The embarkation process was superbly managed by Carnival - definitely the best experience we have had to date. Additionally the terminal itself was pleasant and comfortable.
Once aboard, the first impression of Carnival Liberty is that it is a well maintained and well appointed ship, and typical of the Carnival genre. The decor lacks class and sophistication, but the fun factor compensates for this to some extent, and the experience is never dull. At 110,000 gross tonnes (a measure of the volume of the ship and not it's actual displacement) this ship is similar in size to others we have sampled in recent years.
"Liberty" has most of the features that regular cruisers expect, including well-equipped staterooms, state of the art public rooms, exercise facilities, cafes and bars, communication/internet facilities, shops/boutiques, theater and other entertainment venues, and laundry facilities on every stateroom deck.
With only one exception (the laundry facilities, which were poor) we found everything aboard to be clean, well maintained and in full working order. Our category 4E inside stateroom (8227, Verandah Deck) was as pleasant as could be expected considering we had decided not to pay the premium for a balcony, or an ocean view. We did this primarily because the party we were travelling with (my parents) had a balcony stateroom, which we were able to use frequently. There was plenty of hanging and storage space in our stateroom despite it's modest size, which is a testimony to the design experience that has been accumulated by Carnival over the years. The room, and adjoining bathroom, were clean and everything worked perfectly, including the thermostat, which has been a problem for us on other cruise ships. While still on the subject of the stateroom I should mention our cabin steward, who was efficient and discrete, but not particularly outstanding.
Elsewhere on the ship, the main "atrium"/lobby area amidships is seven decks high, with sweeping staircases and glass elevators. This is an area that one spends quite a lot of time in, as it has all the shops/boutiques, an information/purser's desk, a photo gallery, and one of the larger bars on the ship. There was an occasional entertainment act here too, and some organized passenger activities. As mentioned previously, the decor was certainly not boring, but neither was there any sophistication to be found, and the materials used did have a low-budget look and feel. I should mention that the shops in this area were very disappointing in terms of the stock they maintained. I couldn't find a single pair of shorts that was less than XXL in size, and the staff were very reluctant to assist. Neither the manager nor his assistant were remotely interested in helping me find what I was looking for. In the "Carnival" store I wanted a Carnival-logo polo or t-shirt and was unable to find one!
As a frequent gym-user, from my perspective one of the most important facilities aboard any ship is the "spa" area (as the cruise lines like to refer to it these days). "Liberty" has a state of the art facility in terms of equipment and size, but something is definitely lacking in terms of the experience itself. I never found the gym to be a pleasant place to spend time, and it wasn't possible to enjoy the view outside during my workout because the windows surrounding the spa were too low and very steeply raked. I didn't interact with the spa staff because I never signed up for any of the services. However, I didn't see a single smile from any of them the entire week. One piece of advice that is worth a mention is that the spa services were massively discounted during the last couple of days of the cruise. This may not always be the case of course, depending on how business is going, but you might regret signing up early and paying full price!
The pools and Jacuzzi tubs on this ship are very small, and too few in number. Consequently they are constantly oversubscribed and not a pleasing experience. "Liberty" needs at least one pool with associated Jacuzzi tubs that is completely separated from the public areas of the ship, and open to adults only. This is a feature that is to be found on many of the very latest ships, and even though "Liberty" is only 4 years old, it has already been surpassed in some areas, including this one. The lido deck area in general is vastly overcrowded and consequently not somewhere I found pleasant to spend time. There is a large screen just ahead of the ship's funnel/stack here where movies, sports and live video is constantly streamed. Unfortunately the weather precluded us watching anything. I should mention at this point that the weather on this cruise was atrocious and did, unfortunately, impact the experience significantly. We were greeted by sunshine in Miami during the boarding process, but by the time the ship sailed this had turned to an overcast sky with light rain. Despite continued assurances from the ships crew, the weather never improved and our cruise unfolded under overcast skies, high winds, and frequent rain. The motion of the ship was sufficient for some passengers to become sick. None of our party suffered too much, but the conditions did make it difficult to enjoy the outside facilities on the ship, including the stateroom balcony.
FOOD & DINING
The main dining rooms on the ship are both functional and attractive, but the experience does depend a great deal on the table to which one is allocated. Our table was at the back of the Silver Olympia dining room, and out of view of the main area. We were therefore unable to see many of the festivities that involved the dining room staff (MC'd by the Maitre-D). This may have been a blessing however.
The food in the main dining room was extremely disappointing. The selection was poor, and most of the entrees were overcooked. The vegetables were a disgrace, although incidentally the desserts and salads were fine. The wine list was extensive but each of the different wines we ordered tasted the same, and each seemed to have outstayed it's welcome. We were suspicious of the wine practices in general.
The food was slightly better at "Emile's" (the buffet on the lido deck) but that is partly because one can see the food before selecting it. The salads and desserts were excellent, but again the entrees here were very disappointing.
The main theater on the ship is large but not particularly well designed as the safety railings are exactly at eye level when seated. We found it necessary to get there at least 30 minutes early to secure good seats. The quality of the performances was of a high standard for the entire cruise, especially the tribute to Sinatra and Sammy-Davis that kicked off the cruise, where we loved the soloist almost as much as he loved himself. All of the shows were immensely enjoyable, and both the singers/dancers and orchestra did a fine job. Elsewhere on the ship, the entertainment was equally good. The solo act in the casino area on deck 5 comprised a very talented gentleman who worked tirelessly for the entire cruise to continually churn out excellent covers of the most popular hits from the 50s to today. The Caribbean band were also excellent, as was a classical trio who performed frequently in the main atrium area, and also in the cigar bar at the stern of the ship, called the "The Cabinet".
BARS, LOUNGES AND OTHER VENUES
There are a large number of bars and lounges aboard "Liberty". Each is very different, and some are better than others. Our favorite was "The Cabinet" on deck 4, which was a particularly pleasing place to relax, listen to music, and play cards. It was, however, very smoky.
Another popular bar was "The Piano Man", which featured a pianist/entertainer with a bar built around him at which patrons could sit and interact with the performance. This was a very popular venue, but after accidentally wandering in there on one occasion and being immediately accosted by the performer, we never dared venture near it again. "Club O2" is where the teens and twenty-somethings hang out for the most part. There were some brave adults who ventured in there but I wasn't one of them.
The casino appeared reasonably well equipped but not particularly outstanding. I say this because I don't frequent casinos and so am not well qualified to judge the facilities at hand. There was certainly no shortage of people here, working the machines feverishly.
One significant omission is the lack of a dedicated card room on "Liberty". There was a library that could have doubled for this except that it was too small, and overly air-conditioned. We did find an excellent substitute in "The Cabinet" however.
The service aboard "Liberty" was inconsistent and ran the full gamut. As I have mentioned our cabin steward was fine, but some of the boutique staff were unfriendly, unhelpful and outright snobby at times in the jewelry stores.. The bartenders were efficient but a smile was "extra". Our waiter was adequate but made a few mistakes and wasn't really giving it his all. Likewise the wine steward. However, the Maitre-D did a fine job running the restaurant, and keeping the patrons entertained.
PORTS & EXCURSIONS
We did not sign up for any activities or excursions on this cruise so I cannot comment on these. Additionally we had visited most of the ports on previous Caribbean cruises so did not venture off the ship, except in Ocho Rios. What a mistake. We were bombarded by greedy taxi-cab drivers and shop sales-persons the moment our feet touched the ground, and were relieved to get safely back on the ship and away from this a few hours later.
The price of drinks and services aboard this ship was reasonable and enabled us to keep our "Sail and Sign" account to about $650 for the two of us. This made for a very good value overall, but it should be noted that we did not sign-up for any excursions that would quickly have bumped the cost up.
Disembarkation was very efficient. We were the last group to be called but there was no need for large groups of people to "muster" in uncomfortable locations, which is something we have experienced on other lines. Once off the ship, we found our bags easily and then proceeded through customs with no dramas.
In summary, "Liberty" is a nice ship and this was a pleasant cruise that was very good value for money. However, a combination of mediocre service, overcrowding, and some disappointing facilities on this ship make it unlikely we would sail on it again.