Background: Just DH and I (mid-30's) for this one! This was our third cruise overall and our first on RCI. We had been on Carnival and Princess before.
Hotel/Air: We decided to fly in a day early (a must) and finally found a decent (though still obscenely expensive) flight on Continental to Ft. Lauderdale. The days of cheap flights with no thoughts to security, baggage weight and fees are long gone, my friends. We arranged for SAS Transportation (they were fabulous by the way and VERY reasonably priced) to transport us to our hotel in Miami.
We booked the hotel through an online auction agency. It was a Doubletree on North Miami Beach. It was nice, but not as close to port and SoBe as I would have liked. Had to take the public transportation to get around town (yikes!) as we did not rent a car. Miami was fun and I wished we could have spent more time there! (Next time!)
Embarkation: Saturday morning we had SAS come get us and transport us down to the port. We arrived later than I wanted (12:30), but still in plenty of time to smoothly get on the ship. There were a good number of people waiting, but it went very quickly and we were on board in less than 30 minutes.
Ship Info: Liberty was breathtaking and we (like everyone else) took a moment to stare open-mouthed at the sheer size of the ship. The entire ship was spotless and the crew was excellent and friendly. We had over 3,900 people on board and we only ever felt crowded on tendering port days. Otherwise, you could always find a spot by the pool (though the chair hogs were on the loose) or in the Windjammer, etc. I felt a lot more crowded on Carnival and Princess. I cannot think to add anything else that hasn't already been said...she's just a lovely ship.
Stateroom: We had a D2 room on Deck 9 near the aft of the ship. We really were surprised by the size of the stateroom. It was a lot bigger than I imagined. The room was nicely furnished and had plenty of space to put clothes away. Even the bathroom and shower were roomier than some had suggested. You will not feel crowded in these cabins.
Dining: We had late seating and I recommend this to anyone who is not bringing children with them. We have previously only had first seating and constantly felt rushed to get back to the room and get ready for dinner and then eat. By the time you finished eating you were too tired running around to enjoy the rest of the evening. This was not so for late seating. We thought it was perfect. The food was good and there was plenty of it! I didn't find myself dissatisfied with the food offered. No sign of the $14.95 steak either! We also dined in Chops one evening. The food was superior to the dining room steak-wise...but I thought the service was not that much better to warrant an extra $25 per person. Overall, you will not go hungry on this ship.
Children's Activities/Facilities: We didn't bring our 3 year old so we cannot comment fully on this, but I think the facilities looked really great. Everyone seemed to be having a great time (though I guess there were "only" about 300 or so kids on board this sailing). The pool H2O zone area was fabulous and I briefly wished my son could have enjoyed this area. I wouldn't hesitate to bring any age (over 3 that is!) on board this ship. It seems there are plenty of things to do.
Other Activities: There was so much to do and so little time to do it. We didn't make it on the FlowRider (but really enjoyed watching others try it) or on the Rock Wall (this is a vacation, right?). We did the mini-golf which was nice. There are so many classes and shows and other things to do that you really felt a bit overwhelmed trying to make a decision on what to do. We saw a couple of the show and thought they were good. The ice show was fabulous and we loved it. Note: As of this sailing, you don't need tickets any more to get in the show. They had five performances over the week and there were always seats open. We were too tired to see Quest and I will regret that for a long time. It looked like a lot of fun!
Shore Excursions/Ports: We visited Labadee first. It was a nice, hot, sunny day and we really enjoyed lounging around by the water. We headed across from the tender port to Dragon's Tail Beach and easily found a spot to sit. The market was a challenge and we didn't spend a whole lot of time (or money) there.
Next was Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is a fairly run down port and I really scratch my head as to why RCI continues to stop there. We took an RCI tour up through the "jungle" to feed the birds at Rockland (it was fantastic) through a Banana plantation and stopping at the old waterwheel. We were harassed a bit by vendors, but overall we had a good time. I would recommend doing either an RCI tour or going to one of the all-inclusive beach clubs there.
Next was Grand Cayman. This was far more beautiful and rich than Jamaica. We really loved this island and had a great time. I booked the Rays, Reefs and Rum Point excursion through NativeWay Sports and we had a great time! They were very nice and very professional and we loved being able to snorkel and pet the rays. We ended up at Rum Point where the sand is so white it hurts your eyes and the waters are every shade of blue beautiful. Lunch was at the Wreck Bar, a quaint little place on the beach. We enjoyed this day.
Finally, we visited Cozumel. I had arranged (thanks to my Cruise Critic friends/information) to book a private driver to take us around the island for a few hours. Lazaro (Gerry's co-worker) was great and we loved seeing the island which was just lovely and rich in cultural charm. The water was even more beautiful here and very clear. We stopped at Coconuts bar and had a drink overlooking the cliff and ocean. Then we were dropped off at Chankanaab Park and enjoyed the rest of the day there. This is a nice marine park with botanical gardens and snorkeling. We rented snorkeling gear and spent a long time exploring the shoreline.
Disembarkation: This was very smooth - even more smooth than embarkation. We were off the ship as soon as our color was called and sped out the exit where we awaited SAS to take us back to the airport.
Summary: This was a fabulous vacation and one that I will never forget. I am a convert of RCI and look forward to many (hopefully) cruises in the future!
The only problem we had was this: We were one cabin aft (down wind) of a smoker. He sat on his balcony at all hours (beginning at 5:30 am) of the morning and night smoking one cigarette after another. This, of course, meant that the smoke came directly onto our balcony and into our room. We could not enjoy our balcony room as much as we had in the past. I spoke to Guest Relations and suggested that they try harder to make these cabins AND balconies both non-smoking. A non-smoking means we don't want to smell smoke in our rooms. Obviously, if smoke is blowing our way this is impossible. I thought maybe putting the balcony smokers together perhaps on the other side of the ship or the upper decks near the aft would be a better idea. I just don't know how else to fix this problem.