My GF and I just returned from our first ever 1 week Carnival cruise to Eastern Caribbean on the Liberty ? and I wish I could stay in the Caribbean forever...Oh well... ?
We're from Vancouver, Canada and we decided to fly into Miami the night before the cruise just to avoid the hassle and stress of landing on the day off. For those who have never cruise before like ourselves, we highly recommend doing this. You will not just avoid the airline stress and worrying about any delays, but you also get to enjoy the wonderful night life of Miami's South Beach. We booked a room at the Kent Hotel (www.thekenthotel.com) which was conveniently located on Collins Ave, one block from the Beach and only a $20 taxi ride to the port. We only paid $150 which was pretty cheap, but the hotel is not that nice, more for the college kids partying during Spring break. But Miami was so much fun...the food, music ... ?
Our recommended embarking time was between 12:30PM and 2:30PM. Being first time cruiser, we decided to head to the port right at 12:30PM. Arrived and handed our luggage over to the porter and tip him $4. He was very polite and friendly. The terminal, was jammed pack as we expected to be and the security screening was exactly the same as any airport. Once past security, we were off to the registration line ups, which were long, but we moved through it fairly quickly so it was too bad at all. The registration process itself was extremely simple. You scanned your passport and confirmed your info using the self-assist kiosk then pickup up your sign and sail cards at the counter. From the time we entered the terminal, to the time we walked onto the ship, the embarking processing took no more than 25 to 30 minutes with the massive lines, which was very impressive ?
We booked an inside cabin, room #8345, which was on Deck 8, just right below the Lido deck so the buffet was just one set of stairs up ?. Our room was ready by 1:30PM, so we dropped our carry-on bags off then headed up for lunch and by the time we finished our meals and walked around a bit, our bag was right outside our cabin, nice ?. The room had all the basic needs, nothing fancy and nothing bad.
Being a fitness freak, the first thing we checked out was the gym, which was located inside the spa on deck 11. The gym was impressive. All new fitness equipments and the treadmills have TV's right on them. Good space for the free weights, an aerobic room, and plenty of other space.
The Liberty has two buffet eating areas, serving the same menu, except one has the grill area which they serve Mongolian grill at dinner time and for making omelets for breakfast. In between, there is a deli station, fresh sandwiches, wraps etc. Let me tell you, after hitting the buffet for a couple times, this deli is such a delight. One the other side of the deli, there is the burrito station, which we never tried. The fish and chips section is also located in the buffet area, but upstairs. The burger and pizza stations are located outside, by the pool areas. The fool there look good but we did not have the stomach to try it ?. The Olympian Restaurants, two of them, the Silver, located towards the end of the ship on deck 4 and Golden, located at mid ship. These are your sit down full menu restaurants.
The food at the buffet was not all the great, but it's not all that bad either. Just OK. The breakfast menu was the same everyday but they did change the dinner menu. The food at the Olympian were better but not at the level of your high-end restaurants on land. The service was definitely were. We only ate at the Olympian three times during our cruise. The first night, the elegant night, and the second last night. The menu was pretty much the same as the buffet so we decided it was faster and more relax eating at the buffet. One thing, if you expect the food on these ships to be excellent just like your high-end restaurants, you will be disappointed. Like we said, it just OK and you will never go hungry.
The Carnival Fun Staff did a great job keep everyone busy throughout the night. There are way too many things to do at night from giving your money away in the Casino, listening to live Latin and Jazz music, hitting the main shows to partying your heart out in the club. We actually had a hard time deciding on what to do ?.
Port of calls:
Half Moon Cay - this was a completely beach day. The water was great, the beach was beautiful and Carnival provide a full BBQ lunch for you
St.Thomas, UVI - nice place to visit. Small enough that you don't have to take an excursion. We book the ultimate island tour and it was just a waist of $60 per person. Mega Beach used to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world but I don't think it's anywhere near that status today. Still a nice beach.
Old San Juan, Porto Rico - very charming city, this is was our favorite city to explore. The town is small enough that you can explore on foot, no need to do a tour here. Just grab a map from the ship and walk around. Shopping is great there too ?
Grand Turks - by far this was our favorite beach stop. The ship will dock right by a private beach with everything you need, but if you want a quite area and good snorkeling right off the beach, then take a 10-15 minutes walk to Governor's Beach, for the majority of the afternoon, we had the beach to ourselves. To get there, just walked right through the duty free shop, through the gates and the taxi stations, then turn right left at the end and walk straight. You will see the first sign "Governor's Beach a head" the second sign will just have "beach access" turn left and you are there. The walk is a bit ghetto, but not to worry it's totally safe.
All in all our first ever cruise was awesome and would definitely cruise with Carnival again.