My husband and I (both mid 40's),just returned from our first cruise aboard Liberty and enjoyed it so much that we're already looking to book another one.
We flew into Miami the day before departure and stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown, across from Bayside Marketplace. The hotel was nothing fancy but clean and convenient. Our cruise "document" had told us not to arrive at the pier before 12:30 but since our hotel checkout was 11:00 we decided to head to the port and take our chances. The taxi to the port was $10.00. As it was, they had already started boarding by the time we got there.
Embarkation was smooth and effortless and we were on the ship by 12:00. We were informed that the cabins wouldn't be ready until 1:30 so we headed to the lido deck and enjoyed the lunch buffet. Overwhelmed by the size of the ship, we spent awhile trying to get our bearings and exploring all the decks. We went through the spa tour which was nice because it finished with a trial "hot stone massage" to each of our necks and shoulders ... very nice to work out the pre-cruise tension and get us ready for some relaxation. By this time our cabin was ready though our luggage didn't arrive until about 4:30.
We had an ocean view cabin on deck 2 on the starboard side approximately mid-ship. The cabin size was more than adequate with plenty of storage. We didn't hear much outside noise except we did have to call security one night ... the teenagers next door were carrying on and from the sounds of it were jumping on the beds and throwing things against the wall. Just to note that our cabin was located across from the steward's utility room and were generally awakened every morning around 7:00 (okay for us cause we're early risers anyways but might be a problem if you like to sleep in). Our steward was a friendly guy and was happy to oblige my towel animal requests. I don't know how he did it, but no matter what time of day we returned to our room, it was freshened up with clean towels and the bed made.
The food on the ship was terrific. We had breakfast on Lido deck most days, although we had breakfast in the dining room on our second last day and decided that we actually preferred that over the buffet. The pizzeria was awesome but deadly in that it is available 24 hours as was the ice cream. We chose the "your time dining" option and were glad we did. We like to eat early and were able to be seated at the same table (for 2) for the duration of the cruise. I can't say enough about our dining room wait staff. They had us laughing every night and each of them felt like members of our own family by the end of the cruise. The meals were incredibly delicious and our head waiter often brought us double starters and entrees when we were having difficulty deciding which ones to choose. We ate at Harry's one night which was well worth the extra $30 pp. The steak there was divine!
As for the entertainment ... we took in a few of the shows which were okay, nothing like Vegas but okay. We didn't spend much time in any of the lounges, by the end of the day we were simply too exhausted to stay up and enjoy them. We did go to the casino and played the slots. We ended up coming out ahead by the end of the cruise. We didn't spend much time in the ship's pools but we did prefer the jacuzzi on Versailles deck that was adults only and a quieter area than the main lido deck. We did not book our port excursions through Carnival. Instead, we opted to book ahead of time with local operators and were glad we did. We saved a lot of money and from what I heard from other guests, our excursions ended up being better than what Carnival offered.
We chose a leisurely disembarkation as we didn't have to catch our flight until 3:00. We ate breakfast in the dining room, went back to our room to gather the last of our things then watched the news on the big screen until they called us off the ship. The line moved quickly and our luggage was easy to find on the carousel. By 9:30 we were catching our taxi. All in all, we had a great first experience cruising with Carnival. The ship was nice, maybe not as "plush" or "luxurious" looking as other cruise lines but more than adequate considering the price difference. A great value for the money and certainly met all our needs for the week. We bought a $100 voucher on board which is good towards any future Carnival cruise. The bonus they offered is a $100 on board credit to be applied to that next cruise. HMMMM ... where shall I cruise to next??