Precruise; We flew into Miami on Friday afternoon and stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. The hotel is a bit older and is typical of Holiday Inns, clean, and more than adequate for one or two night's stay. I booked online with Holiday Inn and was grateful that they honored my request for a room facing the port. If you can get a good rate here, and don't need luxury, then you cant beat this hotel for location. There is a CVS store one block away, where you can get last minute cruise provisions including wine. The hotel is directly across from the Bayside Marketplace where we had a very good dinner at Bubba Gump's. On Saturday morning I woke before dawn and watched the ships arriving at port, and finally seeing the Liberty among them. What a thrill!
Embarkation; At 11 am, we took a taxi for 10.00 dollars over to the port, checked our bags with the porters and went inside to check in. This went smoothly and we were on board just a few minutes after noon. We explored the ship which is quite colorful in decor, very clean and well maintained. We went up to the Lido deck buffet for lunch, and at 1.30 the rooms were ready so we went downstairs to find ours.
Stateroom; 1382, Riviera deck, ocean view. We liked our room very much. I have previously only sailed alone in a single inside room on Carnival, so having a window was at treat for me. The room was spacious and comfortable. Nice bedding, ample closet and storage space, as well a well equipped bathroom. My mother was with me, and while she has sailed on many other cruiselines, this was her first Carnival cruise, and she was quite impressed with everything. I like that you can book your tours on the TV in the room, as well as monitor your charges on your account. You can also read the day's dining room menu. The room is on the lowest passenger deck but we did'nt hear any unusual noise or notice any motion. Our room attendant Arif took great care of us all week.
Dining; We had late seating at 8.15 in the Silver dining room. The food and service was very good. My mother was impressed with the quality and mostly the variety of items on the menu. I enjoyed the sweet and sour shrimp, grilled mahi mahi and Penne Mariscos. My mother enjoyed the vegetarian and pasta dishes. I absolutely love the diet desserts, such as orange cake, lemon cake and coconut cake. You would never know they are made without sugar. Our waiters were Loreto from the Phillipines and Catalin from Romania. They looked after us very well. Catalin thanks for the great stories and the laughs! The Lido buffet and Emiles were not bad, but the desserts there have greatly improved since previous cruises. We tried the deli for sandwiches, the Origami Sushi bar and enjoyed them. The fish and chips was mostly good, but we thought the fried oysters didnt taste that fresh.
Ports of Call; Cozumel, we booked the Playa Mia Beach break through Carnival. It was well organised on the pier. Short bus ride to Playa Mia. The beach is very nice with chairs and umbrellas included. Unlimited margaritas, rum punch and pina coladas were included and really packed a "punch" be warned! Beer was also included. The swimming area was lovely, and there was also a Mexican style buffet which was quite good. Grand Cayman, we have both been here before and have done most of the tours, so we just spent a couple of hours shopping, finding some good deals. Ocho Rios; We booked the 18th century plantation tour and Dolphin Cove experience, again through Carnival. We really enjoyed the first part of the tour which was quite informative, but we only arrived at Dolphin Cove just before 1pm, and that only left time to have the include BBQ lunch, but left no time to enjoy the swimming, as you had to be back on the ship by 3pm for a 3.30 departure. One more thing, on disembarking in Ocho Rios there is mass confusion on the pier. I found it a bit overwhelming, but just remember this is Jamaica, " No problem man"! Somehow everyone seems to find their way to the right bus!
Entertainment; The shows in the venetian showroom were very good. We especially liked the tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr, as well as the Rock and Roll review. As for the cruise director Butch; I had read some quasi negative reviews about him being annoying. I can only say that I did not find him annoying in the least, and enjoyed his sincere enthusiasm. He is obviously a man you loves his job, and that makes him a lucky man!
On board services; Now here is where I have to blow off a little steam! In Thursdays Capers Newspaper, it was advertised that you could go down to the internet cafe and sign up, then go to your airline's website to check in and get your boarding passes, so on Friday afternoon, I tried to do just that. I can only say that my experience was terrible! Dialup service is ten times faster, and the "attitude" I got from the internet manager was just not acceptable!
Debarkation; Very quick and efficient. The only pain was that our week of pampering, entertainment, and relaxation was over too soon. One Saturday morning I am watching the ships line up at the dock in the Port of Miami, the next Saturday I am getting off the ship and someone else is watching from their hotel room window, just itching to get onboard and start their week! It is a great way to travel. I think you get the most value for your buck when you choose to cruise. Hope some of this is helpful, and enjoy your cruise everyone!