We treated our three kids, spouses, and five grand kids (5-13) to a seven day gathering that felt like we all went to a most wonderful summer camp. During the year we're scattered - LA, Grand Rapids, Tallahassee, Vancouver, BC. We looked into several ships and decided on the one reviewed as having the best children's program. I worried that a mega ship might be a problem, but it turned out to be just right. There was something, many things, for everyone and Liberty of the Seas does it very well.
We arrived in Miami a day early. I recommend the Downtown Hilton for their great location and internet rates. The port had very easy access and the embarkation, especially with preregistration, was no problem. Some of our group were on the ship by 11am. We were all on by 1pm which gave us almost a full day on board.
Our four balcony cabins were not next to each other. We chose to have more privacy, but they were on the same floor/same side. We liked that. After relief that our cabins were well designed and not as cramped as we had anticipated, we got the kids signed up for their Adventure Ocean programs, and headed for the Windjammer Cafe expecting the crowded conditions of other reviews. No problem. We appreciated their variety of food with plenty of fruits and salads if we chose to eat smart (not) and beautiful desserts, ribs, etc. if we didn't. I went to the dining room to make sure we had a table for 13 each night. I was worried that my 8:30 seating would be too late for the grand kids and expected meltdowns and possibly an adjustment to another time. Again, no worries! Dinner turned out the be a highlight of trip. The wait staff (Sammai, D, etc.) was fun and so accommodating. Within minutes of being seated the kids had an appealing fruit cup in front of them. It helped that everyone had a nice couple of hours of downtime between port activities and dinner where they could relax, use room service for a snack, grab a slice of pizza at Sorrentos, whatever, before appearing spiffied up for dinner with grandma and grandpa. It's hard to coordinate family meals at home so a nightly family sitdown was a real treat.
We were generally very pleased with the food everywhere realizing that a steak probably wouldn't be an inch thick and a lobster tail would be small, but they did an amazing job of offering so many good choices. Their seafood was very good, and my husband who loves more exotic fare said the curries in the Windjammer especially, were fantastic. I was pleased with the portion sizes and relieved to not watch in horror the incredible waste that I'd been depressed about on other ships.
We all enjoyed a slow start to mornings and recommend room service for breakfast. No one made it to the dining room for anything but dinner but were happy with the Cafe Promenade, Sorrentos, and Windjammer. Specialty restaurants weren't for us, but we did splurge once on Ben and Jerry's. The kids really enjoyed Sprinkles at the pool and everyone appreciated the very good coffee served throughout the ship. (Our splurge, which I recommend, was a reasonably priced bottle of champagne on our balcony one late night.
The younger kids used the Adventure program three afternoons and were okay with it, and parents appreciated the break, but they were most happy hanging out with everyone at the H2O water park, ice skating, and just being with their cousins, so the children's program didn't have the importance I had expected. The oldest declined participating in his age group activities and we were disappointed but let it be because my goal was to let everyone enjoy the cruise in their own way and he seemed to do that. My one strong recommendation for the H2O pools was a life guard where the deep parts were. We were surprised that there wasn't one because the kids loved it but it was pretty chaotic out there.
The highlight of the entertainment was the ice show. The Four Seasons music review and the main stage comedian were fun. The Latin band at Boleros and the Caribbean band at the pool were excellent. The big production on art/dreams/whatever had amazing sets, was in a great auditorium, etc. but it was quite bombastic and not a favorite. That said, it was nice for the kids to experience live theatre and we were glad we went. Parades and Disco Family Night were a hit. Costumes for all performances were amazing and we all got a kick out of seeing these talented performers filling other roles during the week. The kids loved watching the fabulous skaters and then recognizing them as the folks checking out the skates to them the next day.
The Liberty staff went out of their way to be accommodating, efficient, and friendly, something we were even more aware of when we encountered the indifferent staff on our flight home. Everything was so clean especially considering how many people were together. I found myself picking up the errant french fry and cup because I appreciated the effort to keep things nice.
The ports were about right. It was fun to start with a few days at sea to immerse in the experience. When we arrived in St Maartin we were ready to explore on land. I booked a special 4 hour snorkeling trip with mud bath for everyone with Captain Alan. Everyone loved that crew and trip. An 8 yr old was very afraid of the swells and two got sea sick, but even they agreed when the 6 year old grandson yelled up as he reboarded, "That was the best day of my life!" You can't beat that!
Our time in San Juan was brief but it was enough to do a basic exploration of the Old City because the ship conveniently docked right there. I love the cemetery, the blue brick streets, and the authenticity of being were people really live.
Labadee has a dock now which makes it very easy. At first things were very hot and confusing there and we were disappointed that we hadn't paid enough attention to signing up early for the Zipline because it was full. But then everyone swam, some para sailed and rode the roller coaster, and it ended up being a great/hot day.
Liberty of the Seas turned out to be a wonderful ship, full but not too crowded. Yes, there were a lot of ways to spend extra money, some pretty tacky, but there were plenty of ways to avoid that, too. (Be warned that the spa folks especially were determined to sell you expensive products.) Thank goodness those horrid art auctions are gone and no one is screaming all day into a microphone to have "fun" and buy rum drinks. The piped in music was blissfully restrained, just right and appropriate, as was Mike, the entertaining and ubiquitous cruise director. (We laughed wondering if he ever slept.) We all had a fantastic time and I highly recommend it to families who don't want to wear themselves out with decision making, dragging luggage, and compromise. We're already planning to do it again.