LIBERTY OF THE SEAS Western Caribbean Feb. 7-14, 2010 By Mary & Vincent Finelli
Our Last cruise on the Liberty of the Seas was Sept. 13, 2008, when she enjoyed the title of the largest cruise ship afloat, something of which Captain Charles Tiege was rightfully proud. However, Dec. 2009 the Oasis of the Seas took over that honor, and all on board are curious about the Oasis and her many innovations for cruisers: i.e. Central Park, Boardwalk, etc. Many of the crew asked us about the Oasis and sailing on board.
This cruise started out a bit rocky, since according to the Loyalty Manager Renato Reis we were listed in the wrong cabin #7321 instead of our actual #7324. There were no welcome home gifts: not a dozen roses, no champagne and no chocolate dipped strawberries, etc. Then, our table seating was incorrect, and to say the least our first day on board was chilly. However, Hotel Director Helmut Leikauf soon came to the rescue --- He arranged everything! We've known Helmut for a long time and he runs a snappy ship.
We published a deck by deck detailed review of the Liberty in 2008; thus, we refer readers to this same site, so we needn't repeat that information. Rather, this review will be on how life has changed aboard the RCCL ships since the global economic downturn. No more chocolates on the pillows at night.... among other things.
EMBARKATION We had no trouble getting to the Port of Miami, even though this was Super Bowl Sunday in Miami! Whew. Traffic was light and we arrived at the pier at 12:45pm and left our van in the Parking Garage directly across from the baggage drop-off. This time we travelled with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and our grandson Marcellino, 7 years old. We had assistance through check-in and were in our rooms at 1:00pm, very nice. However, the ramp onto the ship was at a very steep angle and the foot pedals on Mary's wheelchair got bent out of shape. Marcello removed them and asked our steward Michael if there was anything that could be done. He informed us that we should take them to the Passenger Services Desk for assistance. However, our old friend Hotel Director Helmut Leikauf came to the rescue. He called to welcome us aboard, and asked if there was anything we needed. We told our tale of woe, and he immediately sent Mechanic Antonio Burce to our room. Not only did he fix the pedals, but he also reinforced and improved them. Antonio is a man of ingenuity and pride in his work. Bravo! Thirty minutes after he returned the pedals, we received a phone call from the Passenger Services Desk advising us not to bring the pedals down, because there was nothing they could do for us. Thank God for Helmut --- we now had our equipment A.O.K. and were off to a great new cruise.
THE SHIP We refer the reader to our 2008 Liberty review on this site. Here to update that review we will state that the ship is in excellent condition, well kept, beautifully decorated in tasteful navy blue, maroon and gold. This cruise, Voyage #143 had 3,884 passengers on board, about 500 less than capacity. But, the following week is "Spring Break" and the Liberty will be filled to capacity with many young people. With so many new ships coming on line there are plenty of options for cruisers: Size of ship (small to mega), itineraries and on board activities (this is where RCCL excels: Ice skating, rock climbing and Flow Rider surfing are only on the Voyager, Freedom and the Oasis Class ships).
The truly interesting open air concepts are that the many common areas promote meeting and making new friends: the Royal Promenade, the English Pubs and food venues, the trivia in the Schooner Bar and the special clubs become places to congregate daily. The Children's Programs are comprehensive and encompass tots to 17 year olds. Young Marcellino enjoyed life on board and went off with his parents at every port --- an excellent painless geography lesson.
CABIN We had wheelchair accessible stateroom #7324 and when entering on the left is a large bath with a single sink and mirrored medicine chest with safety rails all around. The 4'X4' shower had a fold up seat. Next, there is a love seat and a large coffee table, and a king size bed flanked by two night stands with drawers. We had one removed so that the bed could be moved over a foot in order to give easier access to the side near the wall.
When entering on the right is a large mirror and shelf, next is a triple light oak armoire, one section is shelves the other two with hangers and a personal wall safe (not in a handy space, too low, facing side ways and difficult to access). Next, there are a mini refrigerator, a 30" TV, and a desk/vanity with narrow shelves and four drawers; a cushioned chair and one upholstered chair completes the furnishings.
The rear wall is all glass with a sliding door to the balcony with two chaises and a table. There are flowered green and gold draperies, with matching carpet. Two pictures of leaf skeletons adorn the beige walls. Our stateroom steward Michael was marvelous, very helpful and courteous. The entrance door is too narrow and should be automatic, since it cannot be opened by a person in a wheelchair without assistance. The bathroom often has a foul odor probably coming from the wastewater holding tank. We have observed the same problem in wheelchair accessible staterooms of other Voyager and Freedom class ships. Probably this problem is due to the absence of goose neck drains which prevent the vapors escaping from the holding tanks. Apparently, the Kvaerner Masa and its successor Aker Finnyards in Turku, Finland have been unaware of this defect. We have been on the inaugural voyage of the Oasis of the Seas, the last ship built by the same shipyard, and did not smell the foul odor. Either the problem has been corrected or the wastewater holding tanks were not full enough to emit sufficient amount of vapors.
SERVICE & FOOD Thanks to Restaurant Operation Manager Allan Williams and Maitre D' Andie Anselm our table seating was corrected on the second night: we need a table near the entrance, since it is too difficult to maneuver through the dining room with the wheelchair. We must say that the food on board is ample and everywhere; even though there is one less entree offered at dinner, there is still a more than adequate variety to please all.
Each morning we ordered full American breakfast from room service. It was always hot and prompt and such a luxury to eat in our stateroom. At 11:00am "Sprinkles" soft self serve yogurt and ice cream opens poolside on Deck 11 starboard. At 11:30am Sorrento's Pizza opens on the Promenade with Italian antipasti, hot pizza and light desserts of biscotti, almond amaretti cookies, fresh fruit cups, panna cotta and mousses. Ah Yes! Then there's the Cafe` Promenade with tea sandwiches, scones and eight or so varieties of cookies and donuts. Then, don't forget Lunch and Dinner in the main Dining Rooms with live music! Life on board is sweet.
Our Head Waiter was Jacob Biton and he was magnificent, supervising our waitress Genevie and her assistant Iulia, both of whom were tip top. The best meal on board is the very rare prime rib of beef according to Vincent. Our grandson Marcellino enjoyed the Children's Menu from which he ordered by himself. He is now a very experienced astute cruiser (his third Cruise)!
Desserts were nice and varied and not all sticky and sweet--- rather, nicely portioned and included many sugar free like baked apples and pears with puffed pastry. The trick on the Liberty is to stop eating, since food is beautifully served 24 hours a day everywhere on board.
The Crown & Anchor Society had several cocktail parties, and at one party we won a bottle of champagne for most cruises on RCCL. Thank heavens that "Super Mario", who was aboard, did not attend, since he had us beaten by almost 100 cruises. We occasionally visited the Concierge Lounge where in the morning were available espresso, cappuccino, latte and pastries and in the evening pre dinner cocktails and canapes. Concierge Mario Reyes was always courteous and helpful. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director James Andrews ia still doing a terrific job of spreading the word of special events. The Ice Skating show "Encore" was awesome, especially the segment where the girl changed costumes on the ice in two seconds flat at least 15 times. Wonderful! The shows in the Platinum Theatre still need a sound check --- too loud doesn't make for better enjoyment.
Reserved seats for the Suite guests were zealously guarded, unfortunately, the reserved area for the wheelchairs was not. If one cannot do stairs, there is not enough room in the last row, when there are able bodied people occupying them. Perhaps a better sign indicating reserved for handicapped, or ushers just as zealously guarding them. Since at this point stairs are out for us, Vincent went to the Casino, while Mary heard the "Du Wop" group alone. They were terrific.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, Florida Depart: 4:30pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 7:30pm Day 4. Belize City, Belize Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 4:30pm Day 5. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 3:30pm Day 6. Grand Cayman Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 5:30pm Day 7. At Sea Day 8. Miami, Florida Arrive: 7:00am Debark: 8:00am
DEBARKATION This was a breeze. We were quickly through to Baggage Claim, where we hit a snag. One of our seven bags was missing. We fortunately had an alert porter who tracked it down on an unloaded cart outside the area. A good travel tip is to mark your bags with something unique and colored coded, so they can be recognized from afar. Then he accompanied us to our van in the Parking Garage. Great news, Miami/Dade doesn't charge for Handicapped Parking! We were on our way to Boca Raton at 10:00am.
CONCLUSION We have been spoiled by the many freebies offered by RCI to the "Frequent Floaters." As Diamond Plus members we have enjoyed discounts on cruises, Value Coupon Booklet on board, champaign bottle in the stateroom, Concierge services and complimentary drinks, special courteous attention from officers and crew, etc., etc.... But now things are getting tight: We cannot combine the shareholder benefits with the Diamond member discount, and the "Value Coupon Booklet" has become less valuable! We are still happy cruisers and RCCL is still one of our favorite cruise line.
Of course we cruise on other cruise lines and take advantage of what they do best. Next trip is an 18 day cruise on Star Princess, from Rio de Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. On Princess ships we look forward to an excellent Italian cuisine. Happy Cruising!