Just got back! Carnival Liberty 4/4 LONG Eastern Review
Ok everyone, get yourself a cup of coffee because it has always been the details that have helped me. I will also mention costs when I can because that is what helped me budget.Perspective of single 52 years young mom, 18 y.o son,17 y.o daughter. This is our 6th Carnival cruise always during Spring break week, but have also sailed RCL & NCL. As this is our last family trip before son leaves for college he was allowed to bring his best buddy who has never cruised, and daughter brought her boyfriend who also has never cruised. Daughter & I in one cabin, guys in adjacent. Booked my cruise deal with my regular on line T.A. (Sharon). I shop itinerary & price and watch for price drops. She was able to link us to a group they had going to get us a better rate and $100 per cabin OBC. Departure- Always fly in day before. For us it is cheaper to have stretch limo pick us up at home then to park at Ohare and makes you feel like you are pampered. Had AA non-stop at 9:00 a.m.. Had previously been use to flying for around $300 @ so when I booked the 5 tickets last July at almost $500@ thought it was a bit much.I knew flight was overbooked We were hoping for a bump so we could get vouchers for air for next trip but didnt happen. Also airline now charges $15 @ for the first checked bag 5 bags checked X $15= $75 +tip EACH WAY (More about this later) Pre-Cruise- In Miami had booked Hyatt Summerfield Suites on Blue Lagoon. Carnival uses this hotel so most of the guests were cruise travellers. Called hotel direct and asked about best rate options. Ended up at $228 AARP rate. They have a free airport shuttle to hotel and free breakfast which was ideal travelling with 3 teenage boys. Had a 2BR, 2Bath suite with kitchenette and pull out sofa in living room (Perfect for the 5 of us & cheaper then 2 hotel rooms). From the hotel we walked about a block to a little strip mall and grabbed a subway for lunch and stopped at the Publix grocery store for a case of beer, a case of diet coke, and some bottled water. Ordered pizza delivered to hotel in p.m. I had packed so that my medium suitcase w/my clothes nestled in a larger suitcase and a folded collapsible cooler, thus giving me a spare suitcase for our beverages. Used the heavy plastic zipped bag like comforters come in for each case but encountered no problem with leakage. and checked all our bags through with the porter at the ship. ALthough there is a shuttle that could be arranged at $12@ = $60 through hotel at 11, we took a van like cab for all of us plus luggage at 10:00 a.m for $30 getting there about 10:15. We were able to walk right in terminal no lines and were considered group 2. Had to sit for maybe 30 minutes til group called and were onboard a little after 11.
On Ship - Split up to have lunch and explore the ship. Guys loved the basketball (brought their own ball rather than wait to check one out)and volleyball court and spent most of their time there the entire cruise- had heard about the Mongolian Grill where you select your own veggies and either shrimp, chicken or beef- and then one of 3 sauces. They wok cook it for you. Had the szechaun sauce w/shrimp & veggies and it was amazing! Couldn't get in to cabin til 1:30 Later in the day before muster drill tried a shrimp quesadilla at the mexican and it was also great. Bought kids fountain cards about $47 each.Noticed our group of 5 was split between 2 adjacent tables. Stood in line to talk to maitre de about seating us together and he said just show up at dinner and ask people to switch. Re-convened for dinner. Had 6:00 seating in silver. Between 5 of us tried lots of menu items, most of them excellent. We particularly loved the bbq baby back ribs, grilled tiger shrimp,pasta & desserts. Daughter and her boyfriend ordered the flat iron steak which they felt was tender but kind of blah. Hot molten chocolate cake became a nightly favorite!!! Our service the first couple of nights was horrible (not a picky or demanding person- water glass never re-filled,never saw the bread guy return,soda never delivered, never even offered coffee after dinner). It just seemed like they were stressed out with managing 2 tables for 8 and a table for 2. Service however did a complete turn around and improved by the 4th night and I suspected that our table mates may have said something to maitre de. .My opinion on CDs is impacted by having cruised twice with John Heald as CD. John Heald is hysterical makes your cruise and does a lot of nice giveaways for selected cruisers. He thus raises the standard. Attended the welcome aboard show.Our CD on Liberty was Steve Knisely. He was ok. Usual shout outs to newlyweds, those celebrating anniversary, and past cruisers. No real giveaways and in my opinion not worth going to for past cruisers, which on this sailing was about half the ship.
Day 2 Sea Day-Weather gorgeous, clock was off on cell phone. Got to Lido deck main pool for coffee at what I thought was 645 really 745 most chairs already claimed. Signs and chair police came around saying they had a 40 minute unattended rule which seemed to be disregarded by a number of the groups on board which would save rows of a dozen chairs and you might see one or two people using them all day. Found a single chair in the area near main pool and was content all day to sun & read. Had bought the bar credit coupons in advance and was able to enjoy some foo-foo drinks without worrying about an exorbitant bill at the end. This was captains party & formal night. Kids looked great and we took lots of family pictures including my "adopted kids". Ordered 2 lobster tails since they were small (4-6 0z) served with a couple of grilled shrimp and have to say this is the best lobster I have ever had on a cruise. Desserts as usual were wonderful
Day 3 Sea Day poolside and San Juan in PM. Had booked the early 5:00 ziplining Original Canopy Tour for the 4 kids months in advance at $125 each. Said it was a blast but that it would have been better during the day time. While they were gone I tried Harry's Supper Club. AMAZING AMAZING dining experience for $30.I had booked on line but on the first day onboard I checked and they said they did not have my reservation. Hardly anyone there that night but the rest of the cruise it was booked solid and you couldn't get a reservation. Zipline Tour Suppose to get back at 830, they got back at 9 and they walked the block or so to Senor Frogs. $3. cover. Wild & Fun Dancing but Had to be back on board by 11:30 and kids did not want to leave Senor Frogs (ever lol). Drinks kind of pricey- $14.50@ and prices not listed anywhere that I saw.
Day 4 St Thomas. Got off ship and got open-air van cab to Sapphire Beach for 10@=$50. Absolutely gorgeous and uncrowded beach. Got there about 930 and daughter and boyfriend signed at the dive shop to parasail $75@. Loved it and had the boat guy take pictures while they were up in the air. Enjoyed it so much they tipped them $25. Kids then rented snorkel equipment $5@ and snorkeled for an hr. while I lounged in a chair and watched cameras, wallets,etc. Wish I would have brought a cooler cause we were thirsty and nothing there- At noon we took a cab to Duffy's Love Shack that we had read about on these boards. Although it is only a 1/2 mile you had to get a cab ($20). Upon first pulling up 1st impression wasn't much, but drinks, food & service were terrific.Hardly anyone there and wish we had had the chance to see it at night. Kids said the burgers were the best they ever ate their entire life!!!! Asked server/bartender where to get a cab and he suggested getting on a "safari" for $2@ vs a cab at 10@. Said they look alike but the safari makes a couple of stops on way back to Havensight.Ended up paying $10 vs $50. Got to vicinity of ship about 3 and browse shopped at Havensightand got some bottled water to take to St. M the next day. Service at dinner had done a complete turnaround. Waiter seemed happy and said he had a chance to call his family from St. Thomas. I would say this was our only bad meal- Penne Maricos suppose to have shrimp & scallops on a penne pasta. Shrimps were tiny salad shrimp very rubbery but the pasta tasted like it was cooked in aquarium water. Kids had an Italian chicken dish that they also did not care for (stewed tomatoes & green beans over chicken). But Thank God for molten chocolate cake cause this made up for it!! Saw Tommy Drake comedian- in regular show- good show
Day 5 St Maarten. This is one of my favorite islands and in my opinion shopping better here. Arrived 7:00 a.m. but not anything open til 9. Kids slept in and were going to shop and do the beach in Phillipsburg on own. About 8 I Took water taxi $6 for all day wrist band and browsed the shops til they opened. ENded up finding a Tanzanite & pink sapphire ring at Joes. Mentioned I had bought from them before and was able to negotiate substantially and got it for $350 switching some stones from another piece that had a better quality of Tanzanite. I really loved the ring and treated myself, but later experienced some buyers regret when I found a ring I liked better at Majesty in a similar price range. It did strike me that not as many people were shopping in the jewelry stores as I have observed on past trips to St. M. Jewelers seemed very anxious to deal and make a sale. Some of them I spoke with indicated that they have been really hurt by the economy. Several of the reputable stores that were on the ships recommended list in the past are not listed because they do not want to pay a % of sales back to Carnival (I had not known that they did this- but should have figured). After shopping for awhile I went to the beach area in front of the Holland HOuse hotel (Royal blue umbrellas) got a beach chair and enjoyed relaxing there. Went back to water taxi and ran into son & his friend. Shopped a bit more in pier area. Vacation was going way to quick. 3 of the 4 teens were over 18 and allowed in the disco.Daughter only 17 was not.She looks older but they were checking i.d.s On past cruises disco or karaoke was the place to be for that age group .From their opinion on Liberty the regular adult disco was boring and they were not playing good music (hiphop) to dance to. They all together ended up in the Teen 02 disco and nobody said anything and had a good time and behaved. Like any Spring Break cruise however you had just a few teens that acted stupid and a couple of "drunk teen cruise sluts" (Where were their parents?) and also a couple of 8-10 year olds out all night and still up at 530 in the morning. Watching movies on the big screen at night was another favorite activity as was NCAA basketball on Saturday & finals on MOnday.Popcorn was $1.50 from Lido bar.
Day 6 (Thursday) Sea Day- Kids slept in. I was up early for a chair near main pool. Another gorgeous day and formal night. Prime Rib was delicious.Took more family pictures when dressed up, and ended up buying more than I should of but they were really very good.
Day 7 (Friday) ANother sea day started out overcast but eventually sunny. Spent whole day on Lido deck while guys were on sports deck playing basketball.Disappointed there was no win a cruise bingo. Dreaded packing. kids out of clothes so they ran a load of wash to get through the day. They stayed up late with many of their new friends Day 8 (Saturday)Chose to do self debarkation and were off the ship and through customs about 8:15 This is the part I hate- Our AA flight was at 2 since they tell you not to book til after 12. There was an 11 flight and I know the first time I do we will be held up in customs. Got a cab to the airport for all 5 of us with luggage for $24 total (30 w tip). At airport curbside check in they again charge on Master CArd the $15 per bag. They do not take cash. They claimed my bag was over by 14# and that was $15 plus an additional $50.Total of $125 just to get our bags home. Now I may have weighted 14# more (just kidding) but I knew my bag wasn't since it had exactly the same stuff as on the way down to Miami. There was no point debating it so I had no choice but to pay it and we went to our gate where the guys stretched out and fell asleep. Feeding teenagers in MIA airport was not cheap and because they were bored and use to eating all day on the ship, you can only imagine ($8 for hotdog,fry and drink and they can eat several). Boarded flight at 1:30 and arrived Chicago early. However only 1 of 6 bags came in on our flight even though we checked them all together, 4 were sent on an early flight and had to be claimed in a holding area and 1 bag never made it and was being sent on a later flight arriving 90 minutes later. She said we could wait for it and since we had the arrangements for the limo to pick us up we filed a claim and asked for a courier to deliver it to our home. As soon as we had all the bags that were in Chicago we called the limo and he told us the door to meet at in 5 minutes. Fabulous convenience after being tired from travelling, not to mention cheaper then if I would pay to park in the parking garage and pay for gas. I would rate this cruise a 4.9 on a 5.0 scale and loved the itinerary. We had a great time. Particular likes included the Mongolian Grill, Harrys, Lobster Tail on Captains night, Molten Choc Cake, Almost everything at Taste of Nations buffet, Adult comedy show of Tommy Drake. Suggestions- skip the carnival infomercials, and push to sign people for a sea mile credit card,prefer a beverage station on Lido deck outdoors for Lemonaid, coffee, instead of walking inside in a swim suit. missed not having the grand midnight buffet with all the ice carvings and fancy desserts to see, they had very few raffles in gift shop whereas in the past I seem to remember something given away every day. Legends show is getting dated especially for past cruisers. Great concept but Need to update the performers. (Nobody really listens to Brittany do they??) Activities were pretty much the usual except one night they played "Quest" an adult scavenger hunt (We played it before on RCL- so I think Carnival borrowed this idea and kids said it was great). I know I will think of more as soon as I post this but am happy to answer any questions.