We were quite disappointed when RCI moved both Radiance and Enchantment out of our hometown of Ft. Lauderdale. We don't care much for flying, so all of our trips have been out of either Port Everglades or Port of Miami. When the Freedom class ships first came out, we said we would never go on a ship that large. Then the Oasis of the Seas came out, we were docked next to it on our last Enchantment cruise and have watched Oasis sail out several times. It made us look at Liberty of the Seas in a whole new light. We have no desire to go on Oasis since our favorite spot, the exterior promenade, is just a jogging track on Oasis and the prices are really high. We were thrilled that Liberty had comfy chairs on the exterior promenade on Deck 4 and we spent a lot of time there reading, relaxing, and enjoying the wonderful sound of the ocean with a great panoramic view you just can't replicate with a balcony cabin.
We were hesistant to go, but we found a great price on an inside guarantee cabin and we really wanted to go to St. Martin and Labadee so we booked it. Our cabin was far forward on Deck 7, but we didn't find it to be a problem. We were glad we were closer to the front centrum than the rear centrum as the front centrum was always less crowded and easier to get elevators. There are a lot of people in the back on the ship, plus all the food areas are in the back so our inside guarantee turned out great! We were dreading the rounded beds (or one-legged beds as we call them) that we had on Radiance and Jewel. To our great suprise and amazement, our cabin had two twin beds that were square (two-legged) beds! As we are both tall, we were so happy. We did notice that most other categories of cabins did have the rounded beds so we were thrilled! This was our first great suprise and our cabin was quite with comnfortable beds and we slept great. Cabin Steward was not the best we have had, but acceptable and kept the room clean. He did bring our robes on the first day (a Platinum and Diamond perk). Partner used his, but I had mine on one time. This would be a nice perk in a balcony cabin, but we don't spend enough time in the room to warrant the price difference of a balcony cabin. The storage space in the cabin took some getting used to, especially since there is no big cabinet over the TV like on Radiance, Jewel and Enchantment. Luckily, there are wire shelves in the closet, so if you use those you will have more room. Enchantment, the smallest cabin we've stayed in, actually had the most and best arranged storage space.
We are now Platinum members so we received Priority boarding. We arrived at 11:20 a.m. and were on the ship at 11:37 a.m. Our timing was perfect and it was nice to be part of the first guests onboard. Other Platinum perks are pretty flimsy and our Priority disembarkation got messed up somehow, but this one was nice. They gave us the wrong luggage tag for disembarkation, so even though they had The Sphinx as a Priority Departure lounge, it closed at 8:00 a.m and we had one the last luggage tags to be called. A live and learn moment; we'll make sure that is correct on our next cruise. The gift has also disappeared; we loved getting bags on Radiance and Jewel and caps on Enchantment, but nothing on this one. We did get invitations to both the Welcome Back Reception and the Platinum and above Reception with free cocktails. As gold members we had food at the Welcome Back reception on previous cruises, but not thtis time. Only the Platinum and Diamond member reception had food and it was pretty cheap. I had joked all week that we were going for a meatball on a toothpick; turned out to be a chicken ball on a toothpick, plus a mini-quiche, a bacon wrapped scallop and a tiny spring roll. We usually do not drink, but I had a couple of drinks and we still enjoyed being welcomed back by the Captain, Cruise Director and Loyalty Ambassador.
We found the ship to be pretty, and for the most part, much less crowded than we had imagined even though there were 4254 guests for our sailing. The ship has great fit and finish and is kept in immaculate condition. We were very impressed as she looked brand new. We think Royal Caribbean does a great job of maintaining their ships. Other than Studio B, we did not find any of the ship to be a WOW like we have on Radiance, Jewel and Enchantment, but mostly pretty and well laid out. We missed the glass enclosed Solarium we have had on other ships and we thought the colors and uncomfortable seating in the show lounge was a downer, but it did have a pretty curtain. I guess we are Traditional as we think the Orpheum theater on the Enchantment with it's comfortable seating and beautiful hand sewn curtain is the prettiest show lounge at sea. We had thought the flowrider would be waste of space (we would love a pool up there), but we enjoyed watching people surf, boogie board and especially enjoyed the wipe-outs. We also enjoyed the Best of the Best FlowRider competition on our last day and the Flowrider Show by the Sports staff on our last sea day. Very entertaining.
We are not shoppers and do not like crowds, so we did not like the Royal Promenade at all. It was too much like a mall, but others seemed to love it. It was a nicely done space, but not walls of glass like on our other Royal Caribbean sailings. We only used this space as a pass through from dining room to show Platinum theater and to visit the Loyalty Ambassador to book another cruise. We tried to watch the 70's Dance Party from a balcony of Deck 7, but all those people packed so tightly together on the Royal Promenade gave me a panic attack and I went back to the room. I watched it comfortable on my cabin TV the next day which was much better for me. Enchantment really does this best as it's held in the Centrum as the ship's Officers participate and the Centrum dance floors make this more fun, in my opinion. If you don't mind being shoulder to shoulder with others, I'm sure you will enjoy it. We didn't attend the Pirate Parade on the Royal Promenade for the same reason, but we were enjoying the exterior promenade and got to see all the entertainers in their costumes come past us. Very nice costumes and we heard it was good but we were enjoying our outdoor time too much to watch. We thought before our cruise we would eat some of the free food items at Sorrento's or Cafe Promenade but we never got around to it.
We could not have asked for better weather on this cruise. Warm temperatures and partly cloudy to mostly sunny skies all week. We are not sun worshippers, so we found good loungers by the main pool as far away from the band station and the H20 Zone (or the H2NO Zone as we call it) and had a wonderful time. We have blasted away from the main pool on other sailings when the band plays, but we were far enough away to enjoy it. The pool band, Men of Culture, were very good. One thing I love about Royal Caribbean pool decks is the opening windows that allow you to enjoy the breeze or close if it gets to windy. It seems to be the simplest things that impress me the most. We had planned on having lunch in the Dining Room on our sea days, but we had such a good spot we spent the morning and a lot of the afternoon there and such rotated going to lunch. We did notice lots of chair hogs who plopped down their stuff and were not to be seen for hours. One of the these days I'm going to play hide and seek with these people and move their belongings to a place they would never think to look to find them.
As for the H2No Zone, it is a very well designed and colorful space; we just wonder how much pee and kid germs are in those pools. We got a kick out of how all the kids LOVED the circular pool and went round and round in circles with their hearts content. It was funny how the larger kids pool with the waterfall was empty most of the time, but that little circular pool was a big hit...kids go in circles just as much a dogs chasing their tails. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it too when I was young. It was nice that they had their own area and mostly adults were at main pool/sports pool area. Speaking of pools, they were all cold. Brrr! We were suprised since the air temperature was, and had been so warm. I was determined to get in one though and did swim in the Solarium pool. The fake gold palm trees were ugly, and the their were stools with a drink ledge in the pool that prevented lap swimming. I've enjoyed swimming laps in the pool on other ships. I came within a split second of trying to dive under the ledge thinking it was just an overpass. I'm glad I spotted someone sitting on one the stools last minute or I would have wacked my skull. Be careful of these stools and don't make the mistake I did and think you can swim under them. I spent a lot of time in the pool despite the cold water, and I dried off relaxing on the warm, red-tiled art piece by the pool after my swim. I did really enjoy the swings in the Solarium. Overall a nice space, but I would get rid of those ugly gold palm trees and install a retractable cover. The Solarium on Enchantment is very comfortable, while on Radiance class ships it is a WOW inducing, beautiful space that is also very comfortable. On Liberty, it seemed to be a napping space more than anything else. The cantilevered whirlpools were interesting, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to the view as they were packed in and enjoying conversation. I avoid whirlpools on ships now because I tend to get sick if I get in one, but these were very nice.
Windjammer and Jade: The food was mostly mediocre and I was disappointed by the choices in Jade, but food was certainly plentiful and not you certainly will not go hungry. Like on the Radiance class ships, I love that there are drink stations for grab and go. At lunch they had water, lemonade, iced tea and a zero calorie punch. It was Strawberry Kiwi on some days and Tropical Mango on others. Nicer than some cruise lines that only have water and tea. They certainly want you to buy beverages because there are no drink stations outside the Windjammer for when it is closed. Options to get water are Sorrentos and Cafe Promenade on Deck 5. The room was chaotic, but did not have trouble finding a place to sit. Radiance of the Seas has the best Windjammer, in my opinion. The space is much roomier, has wonderful outdoor seating overlooking the wake, and they use the same food items but do a much better job keeping the food hot and not dried out. Not an unpleasant experience on Liberty, but nothing rave-worthy.
Portofino (our disastrous dinner); We had reserved this Specialty Restaurant as we have enjoyed it very much on prior sailings. We enjoyed the menu they had two menus ago, the prior menu was a little less good but still acceptable, but they have a brand new menu that we HATED. Portofino failed on all levels from service, food quality (cheap!), food prepartion, Management and Chef. I had to explain what was wrong with dinner to two servers, the Manager and the Chef Ivan and all we got was a "Sorry" from all of them with no offer to change anything. On prior cruises, we are certain that they would have wisked away items we did not like and replaced with something we enjoyed. Avoid the appetizer items listed for two like the plague. They do not match their descriptions. The first was a plate of fried zucchini, fried mashed potatoes with mashed pine nuts and these horrible fried veal balls that were what I imagine fried canned cat food would taste like and my partner nearly chipped a tooth biting into a bone with his. YUCK! The salad for two was just a small hunk (not a wedge) of iceberg lettuce with peppers and tomato julienned together with a piece of severely burnt grilled toast and one tiny anchovy we named "Nemo" because he clearly seemed lost on the plate. The tomato was no good and very bitter and that's all we could taste. The way it was prepared, we could not just pick the tomato out. We both took two bites and another YUCK and no offer to get us anything else. For entree, partner had the filet which was an acceptable supermarket steak that I could make at home (definitely not the fine aged beef they used to have) and I had a Veal Ossobucco over Polenta. The Ossobucco itself was tender and had good flavor, but the polenta had way too much water in it and was grity and super wet. It covered the entire plate with the Veal over it so it was hard to get a bite without that nasty polenta. I've had polenta many times so I know how it should be prepared. This was the most suprising item that again the chef just said "Sorry" without fixing the problem. He could have easily made me a correct polenta and put the same Ossobucco back on it, but such luck. Portofino had always been a highlight for us, but we will never eat there again.
Dining Room and My Time Dining: By contrast, our Dining Room experience was WONDERFUL! From the two Hostesses Suad and Maria, to the Head Waitress Marliza for My Time Dining to EXCEPTIONAL service from Lionel and Amir from India at a nice table for two, we could not have asked for better. Marliza was very unhappy that we had such a horrible experience in Portofino and we are certain she made our complaints known. We are nice people and I have a restaurant service backgroud and treat people very politely, so she knew we were not just troublemakers. We were welcomed to the Dining Room each night with pleasant smiles, the hostesses used our names and knew our cabin number and directed into our table for two each night. Our service team was so terrific that we stayed with them at the same table and same time each night. We were made to feel extremely welcome and cared for, Lionel was extremely versed in the menu and pointed out items that had changed that we might not like and new items that we loved. He guided us very successfully through the menu and we had a great dinner each night. He knew that we liked the fruit appetizer on our first night, so each night we would arrive and a plate of fruit would be in each of our spaces, even if a fruit appetizer was not on the menu. I always order a plate of vegetables and did not have to ask a second time as they arrived with dinner each night. Amir, also a kind soul, remembered our coffee/tea preferences and had them ready for us each night. Both Lionel, Amir and Marliza made us feel extraordinarily cared for and went way above and beyond for us. I was disappointed that the flourless chocolate cake was no longer available in Portofino, but the dining room had a small version of it on a dessert sampler one night. Lionel brought us a whole plate of this cake to take back to our cabin for the next day. A+++ for the My Time Dining experience. Wonderful and the highlight of our trip. Plus, we had live music in the dining room each night! Something that had always been touted, but Liberty of the Seas was the first ship we have been on to have it. Our table placement was in the center of the top Dining Room overlooking the beautiful chandelier and we could hear the music perfectly. Alternated between the Harmony Duo and a very good guitarist. Again, A+++
Entertainment: We love Production Shows and were looking forward to two Production Shows on this trip. Unfortunately, we only had the show "In the Air" because a new cast of singers and dancers boarded when we did and were not ready to perform the second show "Ever After". Disappointing, but we really enjoyed "In the Air", the ice show "Encore", Studio 84 80's Dance Party and "The Quest" in Studio B and the the live music in Bolero's, the Schooner Bar, the Main Pool, and Olive or Twist. Our Cruise Director, James Andrews, was a complete nut and the best Cruise Director we have had on any ship. We did get stuck with a lot of "Headliner Showtime" and with the exception of the Farewell Show, we did not enjoy them. I vowed never again to not sit on the aisle for a "Headliner" this cruise so we could leave if not good. The first Headliners made me want to jump over the back of the seats to get out of our row. Legroom is tight in the Platinum Theater, but we could not take it anymore and climbed over a row of people trying not to step on their toes to get out of one show. As this changes from cruise to cruise, you never know what you are going to get, but these were the worst of any of our cruises. Don't let this get you down too much as their is so much entertainment elsewhere onboard.
Ports: St. Martin- what a GLORIOUS DAY! Weather was perfect and we went to our favorite beach, Dawn Beach. We had a great time riding waves in the beautiful, crystal clear water with a great view of St. Barts in the distance. Rented two chairs and umbrella for $15 and stayed most of the day. We were so happy we did this instead of a ship shore excursion because the pier looked a packed Royal Promenade of people in long lines for their shore exercursions. We had less than 50 people on Dawn Beach with us and it was very fun, but also tranquil and lovely.
San Juan: I have toured Old Town enough already and last time there we took the ship excursion to El Yunque Rainforest which was too much bus! I stayed on the ship while my partner toured Old San Juan. He said it was very hot as San Juan always seems to be. I stayed on the ship and loved being out by the pool with so many less people having a day to relax on my own time.
Labadee: What a beautiful port. Now that the Dock is complete, it was so nice to just walk off the ship. It was a hot day, but very nice. Lovely views of the beach with the ship and beautiful mountain backdrop. We rented floating mats and got chairs in the shade at Columbus Cove. I opted not to do the lunch bbq and partner said it was gross. A very different experience than the Holland America's gorgeous Half Moon Cay, but we enjoyed our day. The map and cruise compass specifically said not to offer to pay anyone for chairs. They do stand there expecting tips, but they are employed and paid by Royal Caribbean so don't let them make you feel pressured. I don't think taking two minutes to set up chairs is worth a gratuity and I could have easily gotten chairs myself had they not come running over. Columbus Cove was nice, but we noticed that the first beach, although rocky, had pretty waves, a nice breeze, lots of hammocks and a great view of the zipline so we would go there next time. I wanted to zipline but price was steep. I still enjoyed watching them and yelling Whee! each time they zipped by. I did ride the Dragon's Tail Coaster twice and had a blast; what a unique atrraction. This is great fun if you are a thrill seeker. Be sure to have on lots of sunscreen as the line to ride it is in the full sun and I thought I would burn to a crisp before I got on. You ride in individual cars that you control and I went as fast as I could go with NO BRAKES until the end. The line was slow moving to get on, but I loved the ride.
Overall this cruise was a solid B, it exceeded our expectations in many ways and the square comfortable beds in our inside cabin and the OUTSTANDING Dining Room experience were really Exceptional. With better Headliners, the second Production Show and not going to Portofino would have made this cruise an A-. Would definitely recommend this ship and this itinerary. We enjoyed another fabulous sea day home with perfect weather. We found lots of spaces aboard Liberty of the Seas to not be surrounded by lots of people. If you are like me and don't like to feel crowded, it is easy on this ship to find quite, comfy spots.
We would go on the Liberty again, but prefer the Radiance class Ships. We are finally going to fly to do a cruise next May and booked a cruise with the Loyalty Ambassador to go on Serenade of the Seas for an 8 day southern Caribbean cruise. Really looking forward to it.