We flew into Miami the day before and stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Miami-Airport South-Blue Lagoon. I chose this hotel because of the great reviews I had read. We were very disappointed with this hotel and cannot recommend it. The location, while ok if you just need a sleep and go, is in an area you simply can't just walk around if you have time to enjoy the tropical south Florida air after coming from cold southern Ontario. The breakfast the next morning (while admittedly 'free') was the worst I've seen at a Hampton Inn. Not enough food for the number of people and very slow service.
Embarkation at Miami seemed a little slow but not excessively so. Our last two cruises were out of Ft Lauderdale and embarkation there seemed somewhat more efficient. Admittedly The Liberty is a bigger ship than we've been on before so perhaps more people slowed down the process. Nevertheless, no real complaints as we went with the flow and walked onto the ship in about an hour.
Our first impression of The Liberty was "wow". We thought the lobby was stunning...nine stories high with beautiful changing coloured lights. I'm not sure what the reviewers who say there is no "wow factor" are expecting but to each their own I guess. The ship is spotless. We had no issues at all with any of the amenities or services on the ship. We thought all-in-all top notch service. Lines, while long, moved very quickly at the Lido deck buffet. I felt the dining room food was excellent Our room steward (Setyo) was amazing. He knew our names from the moment he met us and kept our room incredibly spotless for us (I hope Carnival reads this!)
We thought the shows were great. The hypnotist show was really quite amazing and should not be missed. Of special note, Butch, the cruise director is a credit to Carnival Corp. I have never seen an individual who so clearly seems to enjoy what he does and is obviously a natural at doing his job. We enjoyed it every time he stepped on the stage and, yes, we even enjoyed his announcements.
Now, a couple of the negatives. The ship is very big and, as such, has a lot of people. We knew this and wanted to experience a larger ship. Our last two cruises were medium-sized ships. It negatively affected us in two ways. It was very seldom that we were able to get deck chairs on the pool deck. Quite obviously, many people saved chairs with their towels (even the night before, I suspect.) Many chairs saved with towels were empty for most of the day. The other problem was with the tendering process at Half Moon Cay. More then an hour in the show lounge waiting for our tender number to be called was a bit much. Luckily our other two ports were docked.
We loved Half Moon Cay (once we got there.) It is a beautiful island with a superb beach. We would go there again and again.
We did the Old San Juan Walking Tour and loved it. In St Thomas, we did the Historical Harbour Safari Tour and very much enjoyed it. In Grand Turk, we did the 4x4 Safari Tour. It seemed rather unorganized and would not do it again. Frankly, there is not much to see on Grand Turk and a tour seems rather pointless unless you are going scuba diving etc. The area at the port owned by Carnival and the beach is absolutely beautiful. If we go to Grand Turk again, we will plan to simply do a beach day.
Overall, we loved The Liberty. In the future we may choose a more medium-sized ship to avoid some of the pitfalls of larger passenger volumes. (But just watch...next year we might find ourselves on the Oasis of the Seas!!)