EMBARKATION - Miami Every cruise I have taken has been out of the Port of Miami. The parking is still way too much at $20 per day but at least you know your car is safe. Dropping off luggage is still an adventure but not really a big deal; pull up, plop your bags on the curb, pay the handler a buck for each bag and magically it will appear outside your cabin a few hours later. Usually the part I hate is the waiting around to board the ship. It always feels like a cattleherd to me. But the Liberty embarked via a terminal I had never been through before. It was a dream getting on the ship! Way more organized and quicker than other older terminal. You wait in line to get your Sail and Sign card and walk right on the ship. We did it around noon and it was a total breeze. The line moved quickly and within a few minutes we were boarding.
THE LIBERTY Beautifully tacky like all Carnival ships. To me it was no more or no less attractive than other ships. Extremely clean and fun to look at as I have always liked Farcus' gaudy designs.
THE STATEROOMS Again, typical Carnival. We had a balcony cabin (6288 - midship) on Deck 6. Very clean, surprisingly comfortable and somehow able to handle whatever amount of clothing and luggage you tote aboard. The kids had 6290 directly across the hall. Theirs was an inside cabin with 2 beds. Perfect for a 12 and 15 year old although they did like to hang out on our balcony alot :)
SMOKING...CIGARETTES This is the first cruise I have ever been on where I could smell cigarette smoke in my cabin when all the doors were shut. It was really annoying and the best solution was to prop open the balcony door and the stateroom door to allow fresh air to flow through. I am not sure if the neighbors were smoking in their stateroom or not but it sucked.
SMOKING...OTHER THINGS It amazes me the number of people that risk smuggling pot aboard from Jamaica. But they did and they smoked it. That night the hallways were...interesting. Personally I don't care what people do but at least smoke it on deck someplace and not in your cabin. Given the # of people smoking it I am not sure anyone would mind :)
THE FOOD Buffet was OK. Not great but OK. The Silver dining room was good and we were always happy with our meals. This included breakfast, lunch and especially dinner. Harry's Supper Club was well worth the $30pp cover charge. We had Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail. Most excellent. We never bothered with the pizza, midnight buffets or ice cream machines but the kids regularly reported "we had 4 ice cream cones, pizzas and calzones after dinner." I can only assume it was pretty good.
THE SERVICE Always outstanding and friendly. Housekeeping's ability to clean and turn a room in 10 minutes is amazing. Our dinner waiter, Ketut, was superb as was the rest of the crew although the cruise director, to me, was strangely annoying. I can't explain it but he just irked me. He never really did anything wrong but other cruise directors have been better in my opinion. Maybe more interesting is a better word?
THE KIDS The 12 year old basically disappeared the entire cruise (except for dinner and ports). The Motorola 18-mile range walkie talkies worked well about 90% of the time. He either radio'd us or called us from a house phone every few hours. Circle C for 12-14 yr olds did a good job of entertaining the kids. The 15 year old was too cool for Club O2 as it seemed were all the 15 year olds. So he pretty much hung with us the entire time. I am not sure how fun we were but he seemed to enjoy himself. I think letting the kids have a good time on their own is fine so long as they check in periodically.
COZUMEL Let me preface by saying we NEVER use ship excursions. They are overpriced, crowded and honestly non-adventurous. So we got off the ship, and got a cab to take us to the zipline adventure ($7 for the cab / $60pp for the zipline). We got there after the cruise excursion and had the entire place to ourselves which made for a more enjoyable experience. We had personal attention and spent more time zip lining around. A ton of fun! Next we took a cab ($7) to the Stingray Adventure ($30pp). We fed and swam with the rays and snorkeled around. We spent about 2 hours there. Again we arrived after the cruise excursion and again had the entire place to ourselves. We were allowed extra time and had a great personalized experience. The we went to a great local and recommended restaurant called "La Choza." Very very good. Pricey but we enjoyed ourselves. Finally we took a cab ($50 roundtrip) to the San Gervasio Ruins ($7pp). We spent 2 hours at the ruins. They were OK. Nothing great. But the cab driver waited the 2 hours and took us back - not before stopping at a roadside stand so we could suck down some margaritas! Overall a great time.
GRAND CAYMAN OK the tenders are annoying. Get a ticket, sit, wait and tender off. It takes about 30 minutes total. Getting back on the ship takes way longer but it is what it is and you just deal with it. In the Caymans we hired a taxi to take us around on a 2 hour tour. Total cost: $20pp. We went to the Turtle Farms (didn't go in though just took pictures), Hell which is actually a cool tourist trap. It's a rock formation that looks like Hell might. So buy a post card and mail it from the Hell Post Office so you can say you have been to Hell. Cheesy fun! We also stopped for Rum Tasting and spent a couple of hours snorkeling on 7 mile beach ($10pp). We walked for about 30 minutes before stopping at a little roadside cafe. After we ended the trip by doing some local shopping. Another fun day and nice port.
OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA This is a more complex port for more unseasoned and nervous travelers. I have been all over the world and am rarely afraid, timid or put-off by places like Jamaica. I don't find it unsafe but I could see how some people might. First we walked passed the very aggressive taxi drivers. No matter how pushy they are just say no thank you I am walking and keep walking. They eventually give up. As you make your way into the town, just continue the same routine "no thank you I am walking." They may criticize you, say you are not showing them respect, etc. Whatever. Just keep walking. About 3 blocks from the port is a local crafts market. Many people are afraid of these but they are not dangerous. Just annoying. I have been to really dangerous crafts markets in Kingston and this one is not it. That being said if you want real hand carved wood or real hand made souvenirs, this is where you have to go. Yes they are pushy and annoying but stick to your guns, look at only what you want and don't be afraid to haggle. Anytime they asked us what we wanted to pay...regardless of their price...my girlfriend said "$5." Strangely enough that worked pretty often. Not always and some things really are worth more that $5 but it was a good tactic. After the craft market we hired a local taxi. He charged us $20 each way for 4 people to go to Dunn's River Falls. He waited for us while we did the falls ($15pp). He also stopped so we could rent watershoes ($7pp). The falls are fun. Crowded but worth the money and time. On the way back from the falls, we asked if he could take us to a local place to eat. He did and waited again for us to eat some fantastic jerk chicken overlooking the ocean. Then he stopped at a local supermarket so we could buy some local jerk seasoning and non-touristy blue mountain coffee. We did a little more shopping and ended a great day in Jamaica (never enough time to spend in this really cool country). We were not offered drugs probably because of the kids. But to me, Jamaica is a real port. Cozumel and Grand Cayman are nice a fun but Jamaica is just...more.
SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIES Standard cruise fare. We rarely partook opting for sun tanning and sleeping. Other people had a good time and that is the great thing about a cruise...do everything or do nothing. We chose nothing. The pools are way too small and there are not enough though, I will say that. They also need an adult pool that is not salt. We did a couples massage seminar for free in the Spa which was cool. If they have it, do it. It's free and you each get a 15-20 minute massage and instruction. Oh and pictures you buy on the ship? Yeah they are now $22...each. Bring your own camera and skip this overpriced ripoff. What they should do is let you preview your pictures on your cabin TV and order a CD or something with the ones you want. They can save printing costs like that.
DEBARKATION Tag your bags, set them outside the night before and be done with it. When you get up, eat breakfast, relax and when they call you, get off the ship and pick up your bags. Quick and easy. I have always done self-checkout in the past but I like this way better. It was no big deal.
Overall a great cruise with great ports. My only complaints were others smoking in their cabins and the lack of more adult pools. Otherwise there is really not much to complain about. Well worth the money.