RCCL LIBERTY OF THE SEAS March 21, 2010 out of Miami, FL 7-Night Western Caribbean
PRE CRUISE We arrived in Miami the evening before embarkation and stayed at the Staybridge Suites Airport West hotel which we booked thru Priceline for $55+ tax. Decent hotel (3star) in a safe neighborhood. Their shuttle service is worthless, told us it would be at least 45 minutes before they could pick us up from the airport when we arrived so we just took a taxi for $25. There are a few restaurants nearby to eat at and a Walmart & Sams within walking distance if you need anything the next morning before heading to the port. Cost for taxi from hotel to cruise port next day was $40. Not sure our priceline deal was that great considering the taxi fees we ended up having.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the port at noon, porters took our bags immediately and we were inside the terminal in seconds. We are Platinum Crown and Anchor members so had a special line at the far end of the terminal to check-in. There was not a line at all, we breezed thru check-in and were on the ship in under 10 minutes. From what we could tell, the other lines for check-in were not very long either and people were moving thru quite quickly everywhere. This was by far the simplest and fastest embarkation we have ever experienced. Bravo Miami!!
There were the typical activities on sea days - mens belly flop and sexy legs competitions, bingo, dancing classes, wine tastings, shopping, etc. We chose to lounge by the pool which was crowded as always. There are still MANY of those guests that insist on getting up early and laying their belongings all over rows of lounge chairs and then not coming to use then until 11am. I find this extremely rude, especially when I go to find a chair after breakfast and there are a handful of people by the pool but peoples stuff strewn all over the other chairs and I cannot find a place to sit. RCCL has signs up all over the pool deck stating that items left abandoned on chairs for 30 minutes will be removed and held at the towel stands. This is never enforced.
PORTS OF CALL
COSTA MAYA We docked in Costa Maya, Mexico early Monday morning. We booked an all-inclusive beach day at Pez Quadro online ahead of time for $35pp with a small deposit required in advance. We had to wander around a bit and there was some confusion amongst drivers but eventually found a taxi for $3pp each way to Pez Quadro.
Once we arrived at Pez Quadro, Francisco got us situated in beach chairs with an umbrella. We had a server assigned to us for the day. All drinks were included and also 1 nacho "snack" per person. The server was not overly attentive and the nacho snack was nothing more than a few chips covered with cold canned cheese from Sams club and 2 jalapenos. It was disgusting. We were stupid enough to order the Nachos Supreme later in the day as we were starving (cost $11US) and they were just as disgusting, just had a few more toppings on them. Vendors were able to sell on this beach, so we were annoyed all day by people selling their stuff. We did get massages on the beach for $20/hr a bit down the beach from Pez Quadro. This was definitely worth the money - do it early in the day as they get quite busy. The massage gals at Pez Quadro wanted $20 for 30 minutes so make sure you look around before getting your massage!! Someone called a cab for us on our return to the port, and that driver only charged us $2pp. While the massages were great, we did not enjoy Costa Maya. Unfortunatly, Hurricane Dean did extensive damage 3 years ago and the area is still damaged badly.
BELIZE Ships have to tender in Belize several miles from Belize City. We arrived quite early in the morning, so the Liberty did not issue tender tickets, just first come-first serve. It was not too chaotic trying to get a tender boat this morning. We were off the ship and in Belize City by 9am. We arranged a tour through Cave-Tubing.com for $45pp which is about half the price of ship sponsored excursions to do this. They were waiting outside Terminal 1 as they stated and got us onto our air-conditioned bus immediately. They were a very friendly and organized tour company. There was a police officer on our bus with us so we felt very safe. It is a 45 minute drive to the tubing location so the Cave-Tubing staff gave us a little tour of Belize City on our way. About half way there, we started smelling burnt rubber and brought it to the attention of the staff. They seemed unalarmed and we continued on our way for another 15 minutes or so. Then they had to pull over and put us all on a new bus as the breaks were going out. Thank goodness they had dispatched a new bus and this whole process only took 15 minutes or so.
The Cave Tubing itself was a chaotic disaster. There were 5+ ships in port in Belize that day and there were hundreds, probably thousands, of people trekking thru the caves. You first gather your tubes and then hike about 40 minutes to the start of the tubing. The water flowing thru the caves was very shallow and the guides basically had to tug our tubes thru the shallow water and rocks with our "butts up" out of the tubes most of the time. Not a comfortable or relaxing ride at all. There are bats in the caves so keep your mouths closed as you float, err are drug, thru the caves. Also, some of our tubes were quite flat and thus not very buoyant and our head lights not lit well to see in the caves.
At the end of the tubing, we were taken to a little outdoor restaurant specific to Cave-Tubing.com and had stewed chicken, rice and cole slaw for $5pp and cold drinks. Good local food and the price was right.
Overall, we did not enjoy this excursion at all and will never do it again. This is no fault to the tour company, as they did their jobs well. If cave tubing is something you want to do in Belize, we highly recommend Cave-Tubing.com as they did not disappoint in service.
COZUMEL We were supposed to arrive in Cozumel at 7am but the ship did not arrive until 8am (which is 6am local time). We had to stall around on the ship for awhile since it was still dark outside when we docked. Way too early to be in Mexico, wish we had a later arrival and later departure that afternoon! Anyway, we had booked Nachi Cocom Beach Club for the day for $45pp with a small deposit required in advance. We departed the ship, avoided all of the annoying vendors, and got a taxi for $15 each way for 1-4 people to Nachi Cocom. We arrived 15 minutes later and were greeted and seated at our chairs on the beach under an umbrella for the day. All drinks were included as was 1 appetizer, 1 soup/salad and 1 main entrEe per person from their extensive menu. Servers were exceptional and attentive - never went more than 30 minutes without getting a fresh cold drink. Food is excellent - the enchiladas and BBQ ribs are tasty as is the guacamole! This club only allows 100 people per day so it is never over crowded. I have spent my Cozumel port day at Nachi Cocom 5 times and have had this same experience each time. We will definitely be back and I would highly recommend this experience to everyone! It is our favorite port stop thanks to the amazing staff at Nachi Cocom!!!!!
GRAND CAYMAN We were an hour late arriving to Grand Cayman which meant tenders started leaving the ship around 11am. They did hand out tender tickets this day at 9:30am (we were in line by 9am with appox. 400 others) which was a rushing herd of mass hysteria. RCCL really needs to figure out a better way to carry out the tendering process. Since we were late arriving, getting off the ship to meet our tour with Action Sports was stressful. We were tender ticket #2 but not on a tender to leave the ship until 1 hour after tendering began. It was such a hectic mess of people. We had a very difficult time finding a taxi in the port area, and then when we did find one that would take us to the Grand Caymanian resort to meet our tour, they wanted to charge the 2 of us $25 one way. Got out of that cab and finally found another cab driver to take us for $5pp. The tour had already left by the time we got to the resort, but they thankfully got us into a later tour that afternoon. We were able to enjoy the Grand Caymanian resort for a few hours until our tour started. There was a beautiful pool and some hammocks and chairs on the beach to relax. We paid $90pp for our own Wave Runners for a tour to Stingray city and Rum Pointe. It was a fun excursion and interesting way to see Stingray city. Those stingray are amazing, but scared me so I stayed on my wave runner! The guide drove thru the waves quite fast so I was very scared at first by the speed, thinking I was going to fly off my wave runner, but eventually became more comfortable and enjoyed the ride. Rum Pointe has a beautiful beach and wish we could have spent more time there. The water in Grand Cayman was crystal clear - we have never seen water this beautiful on all of our trips to the Caribbean! For our return to the port, Action Sports had a van available and took us back for $5 each. Overall, we did enjoy this excursion and recommend this fun and professional tour group booked through Island Marketing. The tendering process back to the ship was relatively smooth, and took approx 30 minutes from arrival to the port until we got back on the ship.
SHIP/MISC The Liberty of the Seas is a beautiful ship! From the moment we stepped on the ship, it was evident that she was well taken care of. The public areas are clean, well appointed and easy to navigate through. The Royal Promenade is stunning, a favorite spot for me on this ship. Sorrentos has delicious pizza and salads nearly 24hrs per day. Lots of shops are available to spend money. The casino was a good size with lots of slots and several tables to choose from. So many bars to choose from I don't think we ever hit them all. Boleros is always one of my favorites with great music and excellent mojitos! The elevators were quite busy throughout the cruise, we did take the stairs more often than usual. The internet room was always busy, but we had brought our own laptop and purchased an internet package for $38 for 90 minutes and used the Wi-Fi in our cabin. The internet speed was usually quite fast, only had a problem with slow speed once or twice. We uploaded videos to Facebook at 56 to 60k/sec for family to keep up with our vacation!
Flowrider is popular so plan on waiting if you want to try it out - we were not interested so can't give you much info on this. It is fun to watch however!
This was a spring break cruise and we were told that 1,000 guests were under age 18 so it was a "family" atmosphere. RCCL did a good job tailoring activities to the crowd.
RCCL still keeps everyone informed of the daily happenings with the Cruise Compass delivered daily to your stateroom. We noticed on a few different occasions that there were misprints of information in the Compass compared to what was being stated over the intercoms. One morning the intercom man said we had to be back onboard the ship by 5:30pm while the Compass said 6:30pm. We called Guest Relations to be sure and it was indeed 6:30pm. The first of many attention to detail issues we had on this cruise.
DINING We were assigned to table 430 in the Michalangelo Dining room on deck 4 for late seating (8:30pm). We had an 8-person table and a fabulous group of tablemates! Our waiter was Candice from Trinidad, Ainsley from Jamaica and I cannot remember our head waiters name, unfortunately.
Food was excellent most nights. Many new things on the menu, which was a nice change as they had not updated their dining room menus in several years as we could tell. The lobster night was the 2nd formal night, delicious meal that evening.
Our head waiter was amazing - stopped by our table every night at least twice and was genuinely interested in making our dining experience the best it could be. Most head waiters show up the first night to say hello and the last night to gather their gratuity envelope. He helped us get our shrimp and lobster shelled and made sure everyone had enough to eat.
The 3 floor dining room is beautiful, table settings very nice as well.
Our service was extremely slow. We were often the last ones out of the dining room. The first night, I had to ask 3 times for a glass of wine. It finally showed up right before our main meal was served. One night the head waiter asked if we wanted a few more shrimp, a few of us said yes so he asked our assistant waiter to get them for us. He never did.
On previous cruises, our wait staff starts to notice what we like for beverages and bread and have them there for us when we are seated. They never did that this cruise.
There are specific dress code rules for Windjammer and the Dining room - no swimwear, etc. I personally don't mind people wearing shorts in the dining room, but if you are going to set these rules RCCL, then you need to follow them. There were people breaking the "rules" everyday and nothing was ever said to them.
SPECIALTY DINING We ate at Portofino the first formal night. We had made the reservation online a month before sailing to ensure we got a 2-person table. It was not overly busy, seemed that there was availability almost each night. All I can say about Portofino is WOW. The manager, Andie, is amazing and from start to finish this was the best dining experience and best overall meal I have ever eaten. Not just on a ship, but ever! The assortment of breads and garlic, bruschetta and olive tapenade they bring at the beginning is delicious. We had the mushroom paparadelle pasta as an appetizer and it was fabulous. Ordered the Caesar salad which used to be prepared table-side the way you like it at Porofino, but they have done away with this. I was slightly disappointed as it was a fun little presentation, but not a deal breaker by any means. Dinner was the seafood skewer for me and a beef filet for my DH. Both were incredible. We were so full at this point we took the dessert sampler back to our cabin for later that evening - such a great dessert choice!!!!! I highly recommend Portofino to everyone!!
We had lunch at Johnny Rockets the last sea day. We used to get free cover charge coupons in our Crown and Anchor booklets but no more. Since they have done away with this, the restaurant was not very busy. Only a 15 minute wait on the last cruise day, very unusual. Food and service was great. There was a guy who caused quite the commotion, requiring 6 staff to calm him down. He first just walked in and sat down, disregarding the line of others waiting and then refused to put on a shirt in the restaurant. RCCL should have thrown him out but instead backed down to this jerk and accommodated him. Not impressed RCCL.
CABIN We were in cabin 7311 which is a mid-ship Promenade interior stateroom category PR. The cabin was nicely appointed, the bed was the largest we've ever had. The bathroom was standard for an interior cabin as was storage space and amenities. We have never tried a Promenade stateroom so thought it might be fun to try - probably won't do it again since any activities going on the Promenade can be heard in your cabin. The late night parades and parties in the Promenade can get quite loud.
Our attendant was Stephen from India. A very friendly fellow, but he seriously lacked attention to detail. The phone was filthy, as was our promenade window - dirty inside and out. We had to leave him notes to refill our mini fridge with diet soda twice. On more than one occasion, he left dirty dishes in our cabin which we had to call for room service to remove. One night he left us informational brochures in French, not English. When I brought this to his attention, he realized he delivered French brochures to all of his cabins. Whoops. He left makeup streaked towels in our cabin for days unless I put them in a heap on the floor. Definitely the most complaints we've ever had regarding our room steward.
ENTERTAINMENT We saw the "In the Air" show midweek in the Platinum theatre which was FABULOUS. Some of the best cruise singers and dancers we have seen. The performance was very Cirque du Soleil and well choreographed. A+ show. Bar service in the theatre was readily available and efficient.
The ice show, as always, was not to be missed. Tickets for all ice shows were handed out the first sea day and never again. We got tickets to the Wed PM show with no problem, even though there was a line all the way down the Promenade for those wanting tickets. Suite guest did not need tickets, they were guaranteed a seat at any show they wanted to see. The talent at the ice show was top notch! We loved this beautiful show!!
There was always live music to listen to - Boleros had a great latin group and a guy who played acoustic guitar that was amazing. The Men of Culture group on the pool deck were fun also, with a Bob Marley flair. There was a new band on the ship called the Anastasia Band that was horrible - embarrassing that RCCL would hire this group actually. I felt bad for the lead singer, she was terrible!
The cruise director James Andrews was great. He was very vibrant and outgoing and seemed to be all in all places at once. A well lead entertainment staff kept everyone entertained. A special shout out to Vicki from England on the entertainment staff who was particularly lovely.
CROWN & ANCHOR SOCIETY We are Platinum members for the Crown and Anchor Society. The perks we received on this cruise are as follows: Priority embarkation, Priority debarkation, Debarkation lounge, Platinum+ member party with the Captain (you could order whatever drinks you wanted at this party, not just the standard "rum punch"), Crown & Anchor party for all members, Platinum coupon book and robes in our cabin to use for the cruise (these did not show up until the 3rd day). We would have received a discount on a balcony cabin, had we chosen this cabin category as well.
We do appreciate the perks we receive as a Platinum member and in 2 more cruises will be Diamond members. It does seem quite evident that RCCL is starting to cater more towards Suite guests and give the biggest perks to them instead of to their loyalty guests. Not sure this is a move in the right direction for RCCL.
DEBARKATION We received light blue tags in our cabin for departure, which were to debark around 9:30am. We should have been given different tags (Lime Green1, Beige or Lavendar) so we could enjoy the Platinum + departure lounge so we got to stand in the Guest Services line to straighten this out. Not a big deal, just another slip in attention to detail by RCCL.
We were out of our cabin by 7am and in the Sphinx Lounge with other Platinum + members waiting for departure. Our Lavender tags were called at 7:30 and we were thru Customs and picking up our bags (which were on carousels, not just lined up in a huge warehouse) in minutes. Grabbed a taxi outside and were on our way to MIA by 7:45am. Taxi fee is set at $24 from Port to MIA for 1-4 guests. Whole debarkation process was seamless and simple. Yet another huge Bravo for the Port of Miami!!
OVERALL We still feel that RCCL does a lot to ensure everyone has a fabulous cruise vacation. We had a nice vacation! However, since we started cruising 6 years ago, there have been some obvious cuts in service that we have noticed, such as - No more midnight buffet or chocolate buffet, No mints on your pillow at night, No Crown and Anchor society member gifts in your cabin any longer, No trays in Windjammer, Crown and Anchor coupon books have gotten less valuable, and the dinner menu seems to have fewer options.
We did book another RCCL cruise while onboard the Liberty (only had to pay $100pp for deposit, not the usual $500 per cabin) so that we could get our $100 onboard credit for the future cruise. Bon Voyage everyone and see you on the Mariner of the Seas in 2011.