About us: My best friend of 36 years and myself, both in our early 50s found this unbelievable price on the Liberty Of The Seas only 20 days before sailing date. We both got married to our wonderful wives 32 years ago. Our wives were invited on this cruise. They both declined, so we left alone. We can both live very well with that. So can our wives. My friend has cruised 8 times before. I have 25 cruises under my belt with different cruise lines. He lives in Canada, I live in South Florida. He flew down a few days before, stayed with us and we drove to Miami harbor on the morning of the cruise, parking my car at garage G, across the street from the ship, for $20 per day.
About the cabin: We got cabin 1365 on deck 10 aft (category L), starboard side of the ship, aft of the aft elevators. Our cabin attendant was Jeant, a charming man who kept the place spic and span during the whole trip. We are no slobs, having been trained by our wives in the fine art of picking up after ourselves. All in all, the cabin was neat as a pin the whole time. The cabin itself is the usual spartan and cramped 152 square feet inside cabin I have seen so many times. We had very comfortable beds, luxurious bedding, more than enough space to hang our clothes and stow our belongings. The safe worked perfectly the whole time and Jeant kept us supplied with ice 2 or 3 times a day. When requested, a container for my used insulin needles was promptly supplied. We could plug our digital video camera in the TV's HDMI port, but these functions are disabled on the ship's TV. We could live with that. We reviewed the day's videos on my laptop computer. They can slow me down but they can't stop me.
About the bathroom: Someone posted a review, mentioned being "fluffy". This is a reference to standup comic Gabriel Iglesias' routine. I feel your pain, man. I am a large man, categorized by Mr. Iglesias as "Oh Hell, NO!". How do I put this kindly? That shower is best suited to steam string beans than hot dogs. I dropped my soap in there one morning. I had to open the doors, get out of the shower, pick up my wayward soap and re-enter the stall. Talk about confined spaces: I used a hand towel as a bath mat in there. Water pressure in the shower and the sink's faucet was pitiful, but hot water was plentiful. That caused me to run the shower in order to rinse my triple-blade razor. My friend laughed at me until he tried rinsing his razor under the sink's faucet. Clogged razors do not produce clean shaves and the scruffy look doesn't become me.
About the elevators: This ship offers 8 glass-walled elevators located at either end of the Royal Promenade. I have read reviews of people complaining the elevators are slow. We were in fully relaxed mode and never noticed that problem. Don't sweat the small stuff, you'll get to Miami at the same time.
About the food: In all the meals we ate onboard, my friend got one bad steak. I have no complaints about anything that was presented to me. Again, don't sweat the small stuff. I didn't have to shop for it, schlep it in the house, decide how to cook it, prepare it, serve it, clear the dishes, fill the dishwasher or scrub the pots and pans. If you don't like it, your waiter will gladly take it away. I never found the quality and presentation of the food to be lacking. Granted, there was a sad piece of teriyaki chicken in the Windjammer on embarkation and my friend got a disappointing steak one night, but nothing to write home about, or ruin a cruise.
DAY 1, Dec. 13, 2009: We drove in from my house in Delray Beach (FL) to the Bayside cruise terminals in Miami. We arrived at Royal Caribbean's Miami terminal at 10:50AM. Once inside, we noticed that there were already 250 people waiting to go through security and the ubiquitous metal detector. The line moved steadily. The wait was short. Alain carried a monopod for his video camera, which was inspected very closely by the security officers. We then proceeded to get our keycards and boarded the ship 1135. It would have been quicker, but I had left my boarding pass at home. The clerk had to make up a new set of paperwork by hand: my bad.
Lunch at Windjammer. Good food but nothing memorable. The teriyaki mahi-mahi was unbelievably overdone and had a chalky texture: not good at all. A chicken dish was way better. We stayed away from the desserts. Alain wanted an espresso, so we went to Seattle's Best on the Royal Promenade. Once there, I had a chocolate and white macademia nuts cookie. We then walked the Royal Promemade, checking out the shops. We ended up at Sorrento's where Alain had a lemon mousse that was really good and lemony. The cabin was ready at 1PM. We walked around the ship, made reservations at Chops for 8:00PM that first evening. I had purchased a soda package online and the words "Coca-Cola" already appeared on my keycard, so there was no need to line up for that. We registered with the My Time To Dine program, which took all of 5 minutes. That is really something that one should be able to do online, but the process was painless. We then walked around the ship, getting familiar with its layout. Alain had sailed on the Liberty last January. I had sailed on the Freedom last March, so we quickly recognized the layout. Our suitcases were waiting at the door when we returned to the cabin around 5PM. We unpacked and both fell asleep watching TV. We woke up at 7:55PM... reservations at 8:00PM... got dressed in a hurry and went to Chops, only 10 minutes late: no problem.
Dinner at Chops was superb. We had purchased the 7-bottle Diamond Wine Package. We ordered a cabernet sauvignon that turned out to be really good. We were given a complimentary bottle of bubbly, which we brought back to the cabin and stashed in our cabin's refrigerator. Steak and bubbly doesn't cut it for us. Foodwise, we both had the portabella mushroom on garlic bread topped with arugula, a few drops of a balsamic vinaigrette and a sliver of fresh parmesan: fabulous. Alain opted for the 10-oz rack of lamb which was done to perfection and just melted in your mouth. He also ordered crimini and leeks in a very nice light wine sauce and double-whipped potatoes. I ordered the 12 oz New York strip steak. It was a commendable piece of meat, arrived cooked exactly as I had ordered it. My entrEe was accompanied by steamed asparagus and onion rings. Side dishes are served family style and we shared them. Everything was very good. We had cheesecake for dessert. We then repaired to the cigar salon where, like on Freedom OTS, the chairs are extremely uncomfortable and very low to the ground. Speaking as someone with back problems, I really wondered how I was going to get out of that chair at the end of my cigar. It was not easy, nor was it elegant. We had brought our own cigars and paraphernalia. The cigar club attendant, Olena, took good care of us. I had after-dinner liqueurs with our stogies. They were served promptly and the portions were generous. We retired promptly at about 2:00AM. By that time, the ship was deserted. Go figure.
Day 2, Dec. 14, 2009: at sea. Gorgeous warm sunny day. I woke up at 8:20AM, showered, shaved, dressed and went to the dining room (Deck 3) for breakfast alone. I had laid out my clothes the night before so I wouldn't disturb Alain with lights the following morning. The dining room was bright and sunny. Good coffee was produced quickly and constantly by a very attentive assistant waiter.
My tablemates were interesting. An elderly couple boasted 91 cruises on Royal Caribbean to date. A week or so earlier, they got invited for a 2-day cruise on the Oasis where everything was free. They definitely prefer smaller ships like the Liberty. I had a small croissant with a cup of black coffee followed by the smoked salmon plate, which was very good. The coffee was hot and reasonably strong. While we talked and talked, I must have had 3 cups of coffee. Upon leaving the cabin, I had taken my e-book and sat at the Pool bar on deck 11 for the rest of the morning. I met nice people there. A lot of people were interested in my views of the e-book. One guy was going home and purchasing himself one for Christmas. I guess I gave a good demonstration.
I met up with Alain, who had business elsewhere on the ship. I went to the Windjammer for lunch: Indian and Vietnamese food: very good and done very well. One of Disney's ships was on the port side of the ship. One of Carnival's ships was on the starboard side of the ship. Both are keeping pace with us. To the east of us, we can see mountains in Cuba. The sun worshippers are out in force on the top decks. With a favorable wind, you can just catch a whiff of Sunday morning bacon sizzling as their bodies turn from skim milk color to dark mahogany. There seem to be plenty of free deck chairs available.
The rest of the day was spent walking about, reading and socializing. Around 4PM, we had a delicious little shrimp and egg sandwich at Seattle's Best. That will tide us over until dinner. We would have stayed longer at Seattle's Best, but a child in a stroller became extremely agitated as his mom surfed the internet on her laptop while completely ignoring the one-man band in the stroller next to her. We left. I am quite sure she never noticed the child's behavior. I love kids. It's parents who don't raise their kids I can't stand. Please don't send me irate emails about this, I won't read them.
We were ready for dinner around 8:30. Although we were registered with My Time Dining, there was a 10-minute wait to be seated. Many guests arrived at the dining room at the same time. The staff did their best to accommodate everyone as quickly as they could. We had snails bourguignon, lobster bisque, an absolutely amazing filet of sea bass with polenta. My friend ordered the 10 oz filet mignon from Chops, which came perfectly cooked. Espresso and cheesecake brought in the rear. Again, the food was really good and service was impeccable. The evening concluded with cigars and liqueur at the cigar lounge.
Day 3, Dec. 15, 2009: Costa Maya. We docked at around 9:00AM. A slight drizzle fell for 20 minutes, soon to be replaced by dazzling sunshine that was soon chased away by a heavy cloud cover and high winds. Sunscreen would be useless. While having breakfast in the dining room, we saw one of NCL's ships arriving. It seems they changed their mind on account of the weather and just decided to move along because they were nowhere to be found when we left the ship. We went ashore around 11:30AM and looked around at the shops. Let's just say it once and for all: Costa Maya is an open air shopping mall; nothing more, nothing less. There are no beggars, no three-legged dogs or open-air sewers there. From deck 12, a small village can be seen in the distance, towards the South, but no one lives within the confines of the mall itself. We stopped at a very nice restaurant (Mamasita's) where we drank a few beers with a plate of nachos topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream: just great. We then proceeded to attack a sampler platter of their Mexican food with a bit more beer to ward away dehydration caused by the sea breeze picked up suddenly. Eight-foot waves soon began crashing against the shore. Everything tasted wonderful. We did not get Montezuma's revenge, which is a good thing.
I collect large sea shells, roughly the size of a football, or larger. I bring back at least one from most of my cruises. So, on the way back to the ship, I went through the little shops asking if they had any. Most vendors didn't. One guy did, but he wanted $85 for it: ludicrous! I offered $20 for it right from the start. After a spirited negotiation session in English and broken Spanish, I got the shell for $20. I also bought myself a very nice Panama hat that started at $55 but finally sold at $15. What have we learned here? Bargain very hard in Costa Maya, throwing in a few sentences of broken Spanish in the process.
We ate dinner in the dining room. No waiting in line for My Time To Dine patrons tonight. My friend ordered the scallop risotto and a steak. The risotto was good but the steak turned out to be mostly gristle. He returned it and requested another one. The replacement dish wasn't that much better. I ordered the scallop risotto, the creamy garlic soup and the pan-seared cod. All three dishes were just plain scrumptious. I have learned long ago that cruise ship dining rooms don't do steak consistently well. I avoid it, preferring a fish or vegetarian course instead. What can I say, I truly enjoy fish and I loathe disappointments in the dining room. I also love steak, so I visit specialty restaurants onboard and grill my own at home. Dinner was followed by the Dancing in the Street event on the Royal Promenade. It was very enjoyable. Every time I take part in it, I wish it lasted longer. Just when the crowd starts dancing, the show is over. They still play dance music on the Royal Promenade, but people shuffle away as soon as the show ends. There was no cigar tonight but there will be one tomorrow. I can see it in my future.
Day 4, Dec. 16, 2009: Belize. The weather was definitely gray and windy in Belize; no need for sunscreen. The usually crystal-clear water was murky and reflected the gray weather. Anchored around us were one HAL ship, one NCL ship and two Carnival ships. We both slept soundly and late. By the time we were presentable, we headed to the Windjammer for a late breakfast. In my view, breakfast is vastly overrated, 365 days/year. Give me toast and a few good cups of coffee and I'm happy. How people can heap breakfast fare on their plate until it falls off and go back for seconds is beyond me. But I live and let live. My friend went ashore shortly after noon. I stayed on board, preferring to spend my afternoon reading in a quiet corner near the aft elevators on deck 4, starboard side. To me, that's the spirit of real holidays: have a choice between going ashore or reading, and choosing the good read. Why not?
My friend came back around 4PM. He was so drenched I thought he had fallen off the tender. Apparently, he got stuck in a downpour. He changed into dry clothes and we went to Johnny Rocket's diner for burgers. It's a fun place with good-tasting food that is really not very good for you. The wait staff was very friendly, with big smiles all around. We enjoyed it tremendously but won't return there on this trip. We returned to the room to watch the videos Alain had made of his Belize explorations. Luckily, I brought along my laptop computer because the HDMI connections on the TV are disabled. But I already mentioned that.
We then watched a movie on TV, snoozed while it was playing and woke up at 9:15PM. The My Time Dining program ends at 9:30PM, so we brushed our teeth, got dressed and raced down to deck 5. The hostess was all smiles as she told us that we had 1 minute to spare. She then proceeded to escort us to our table, closing the dining room doors behind us. Dinner consisted of crab cake (too much filler), clam chowder and panko-breaded cod for me. No dessert tonight, please... not after those burgers at 4:30! My friend had the crab cake and the cheese tortellini; no dessert there, either. We then went for a cigar, walked around outside on deck 4 and called it a day.
Day 5, Dec. 17, 2009: Cozumel. The day started out sunny but clouds and intermittent rain quickly took over. The ship docked at the San Miguel dock, where there is way less to do than at Porto Langosta. But all that is moot point to me because I do not go ashore in Cozumel. I have been there so many times, the locals wave at me. I have done Cozumel ad nauseam. I stayed on board, taking advantage of the ship's deserted state to take pictures of the various points of interest. What few people remain can easily be PhotoShoped out if I feel like it. I spent time in the cantilever hot tubs. The water in the pool was just plain freezing, but felt good after the hot tubs. About that: weren't the pools heated at one time? It rained while we were in the pool but we were already wet, so we stayed in the pool.
We went for coffee and munchies at Seattle's Best. We then got ready for dinner. We ate at the Windjammer. We sampled the sushi and oriental buffet. It was very good but my favorite smoked eel rolls were noticeably absent. When I enquired, I was told they were not available, even by special order. At least, on NCL, you can order them and pay for them, which I was willing to do. Nonetheless, the selection that was offered was very good and very fresh. Vietnamese rolls and a delicious beef pho (clear broth) completed the meal. I had a slice of sugarless pineapple mousse cake and that was dinner: quite enjoyable. We walked around the ship. There was a very good classical guitar player at Bolero's, so we sat down and ordered Guinness while he regaled us with his talent. We went outside for a walk on deck and retired around midnight. I remember saying this trip was going by very fast. We will be sailing towards Miami for 2 days and then it's all over. Seven days go by almost in a flash! It seems we just got here.
Day 6, Dec. 18, 2009: At sea. It's warm, sunny and windy outside today. We are sailing towards Miami at a snail's pace, 8.5 to 9 knots if the TV is to be trusted. I don't understand this itinerary. We made the trip from Miami to Costa Maya in just over 24 hours and now it will take us two days to reach Miami from Cozumel. What am I not getting here? Anyhow, Alain slept in this morning. I badly needed coffee and food when I woke up. I decided to skip my insulin shot until after breakfast, lest I faint on the way to the dining room. Today, I'll snoop around the ship, taking pictures, reading and relaxing before I return to the rat race on shore on Sunday morning.
We had lunch at Brasserie 30, the deck 3 dining room where you can be served a 3-course meal in 30 minutes. We indicated we were not in a hurry, so lunch was served at a leisurely pace. There was a very nice salad bar set up. I opted for the daily soup (minestrone) and the catch of the day (catfish). Dessert was an apple strudel with calvados sauce. Everything was delicious and served without hurrying. This was, after all, a sea day. The rest of the day was spent reading and snoozing. We went to My Time Dining around 8:30PM. Tonight was lobster and shrimp night. The lobster was cooked properly and the shrimp were delicious. The plate could have used some kind of starchy vegetable but the steamed broccoli and sautEed grape tomatoes brought up the rear nicely. A bottle of Château Ste-Michelle (white Riesling) was ordered. It agreed with the seafood admirably. Midway through our entrEe, our waiter appeared with another seafood plate for each of us. We hadn't requested it, but ate it anyway. Dessert was a sampler of 3 itty-bitty cakes, 2 mouthfuls of each: baba au rhum, cheesecake and the most decadent chocolate cake ever. Coffee felt really good after that. We then went for a good cigar at the cigar lounge, where Olena took good care of us once again. We then walked on the upper decks, watched the ship's wake and solved the world's problems until 2:00AM.
Day 7, Dec. 19, 2009: at sea. We are still sailing at 8 or 9 knots. If someone fell overboard, they could catch up and eventually overtake the ship. Who cares, I love sea days. We woke up around 10:30AM. The Windjammer was about to close, the dining room had closed long ago. We were still full from the night before, so we went to Seattle's Best for a cup of coffee. The Food Festival was about to start on the Royal Promenade. People were packed wall to wall, trying to get a picture of what was really a midnight buffet of olden days, served at noon. The presentation was very nice. We ate a couple sandwiches at Seattle's Best and made our way out of that madhouse as best and as fast as we could. Conclusion: come on, people... you've seen and eaten all this food earlier on in the cruise. Move along.
We packed our suitcases at the beginning of the afternoon. That freds the rest of the day and evening to do... whatever. We also filled the debarkation paperwork, the onboard service survey and we stuffed our gratuity envelopes. As is often the case, we have not so much as seen the head waiter throughout the whole cruise. However, we are certain he will pop in at the table tonight to make sure everything is to our liking. While he is there, we will give him his envelope. A head waiter's job is often misunderstood. They do not serve you. They make sure the service in their section goes on without a hitch. He deserves his envelope. Everything went very well.
Since we are driving away tomorrow morning, we have chosen to handle our own luggage and be ready to leave at the deck 4 gangway at 6:30AM. We'll clear Customs and Immigration and be on our way as soon as possible. I live an hour away from Miami harbor. We'll have breakfast at home tomorrow morning.
Miami, Dec. 20, 2009. Debarkation day. The luggage had been packed with care the night before and stayed in the room. We took advantage of the express debarkation option, handling our own luggage and getting off the ship at 6:30AM. We did not go get any breakfast or even a cup of coffee. The cruise was over and we wanted to get off ASAP. We got in line at 6:15. The line started moving forward at 6:30 and we were in the car by 6:50, having cleared Customs and Immigration in one fell swoop. We retrieved the car at the parking garage, hit the road and arrived for breakfast at home at 7:45.
This cruise's stated purpose was to get out of the rat race and enjoy ourselves. I can affirm that we achieved and exceeded that purpose. We relaxed, smoked our cigars, drank in moderation and maybe, just maybe, ate too much. I am already booked to return on the Liberty Of The Seas on February 7th, 2010. I can't wait.
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