I wrote a mini review on the board, and am just now getting around to writing a full review of our cruise on Carnival Liberty, Western route from September 11, 2010 to September 18, 2010. This cruise was to celebrate Ed's birthday. We are, Ed, 50's and Nanette ,40's. We have cruised with RCL, NCL and Carnival in the past. We are from the Atlanta area and flew down to Miami on Friday September 10th. We flew Air Tran and the flight was on time and uneventful. We stayed at the Hilton by the airport. The hotel was fine. Nothing to write home about, but clean and comfortable. It also had a balcony, and I enjoyed looking out at the water from our room. I heard the breakfast was good, but expensive. I chose not to eat because I knew I would be eating far more than I should be for the next 7 days! Ed however enjoyed it. If you don't have a car, there is no place nearby to go. We had intended to go to a store in Miami to buy our wine and soft drinks to carry on board, but there was nothing around there. We ordered Pizza and wings in for dinner. We took a shuttle from the hotel to the port. I do not know how much it cost because I was not there when Ed ordered it. It was a quick and uneventful trip to the port. We got there sometime between 12:00 and 1:00 I believe, and it was pretty busy. We waited in a long line to have our passports and tickets checked and go through security screening, but it went pretty fast. Once we got in, we waited in an even longer line to get checked in, but it also went faster than it looked like it would. I don't think the whole process took an hour. They have separate lines for Citizens and Non Citizens. I was very surprised to see that the line for Non Citizens was much longer than the line for Citizens. It may not have been like that all day, but it was during the time we were there. We took our pictures and stepped on board! The area that we entered into was beautiful. I had a very good first impression of the ship. It didn't seem gaudy or loud as I have heard that Carnival often is.
CABIN It was after 1:00 when we boarded so we were able to go straight to our rooms. We had a balcony on deck 7. It was spacious and comfortable. There was enough clearance under the beds to be able to put our luggage under there and save room in the cabin. There was plenty of storage and the beds were sooo comfortable. I slept like a baby the whole time I was there. ( Not the newborn kind that wakes up every two hours crying, but the older kind that will sleep through anything.) I was surprised that they haven't upgraded the TV to a flat screen yet. We must have had a great location because it was so quiet. We never heard a peep out of anyone. The bathroom was your typical cruise ship bathroom .Those shower curtains really annoy me , but they gave you a basket of razors, toothpaste, dental floss etc. I thought that was a nice touch. The balcony was what was expected with a table and two chairs. It was totally private and I spent a lot of time out there relaxing and enjoying myself. I love having a balcony. It is like having an extra room.
DINING During the course of the trip, we dined in the Golden Olympian Dining room, Emile's, Harry's, used room service, used the deli, the Mongolian grill, got pizza, fish and chips and had hamburgers and Hot dogs. For the most part, it was very good. The Dining Room food was excellent. I did not have a thing there that I did not like. The tomato soup that I had the first night was the best that I have ever had anywhere. The steak was tender and cooked the way I asked. The vegetables were not over cooked or soggy. Everything I ate was wonderful! Breakfast in Emile's was an ordeal to put it lightly. On the first morning, we had such a difficult time trying to find a place to sit and spent so much time standing in line that I vowed never to go back. As it turned out, we ate there every morning. I really enjoyed the cooked to order omelets and had one every day along with whatever else I chose. The French toast was good as were the potatoes. You could find just about anything that we typically think of as breakfast food in the US. When people say that they found breakfast to be repetitive,I always wonder what they eat at home. Breakfast is breakfast and there is not as much variety as there is at lunch and dinner. They had eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, waffles, french toast, potatoes, cold cereal, hot cereal, omelets, fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, toast, bagels cream cheese and Lox, donuts, danish, muffins and on and on. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't have that much variety for breakfast at home. On workdays, I eat fruit in the car on the way to work, if anything. It was always crowded though and the lines were long. We always meant to try the dining room for breakfast, but the hours were too limited and we always slept too late. Lunch was my least favorite meal in Emile's as far as the buffet. Nothing appealed to me for the most part. But the fish and chips upstairs was good, as was the deli and the burrito bar. The hamburgers were surprisingly good, the best I ever had on a cruise ship. Ed tried to hot dogs and said they were nothing special. The fries were really good too. Dinner in Emile's seemed to include the same items served in the dining room. The desserts there were not very good though. The only dessert I tried there that I liked was the tiramisu. I loved it! Pizza was OK, what you would expect. I waited in a long line to try the Mongolian grill and was disappointed that I did not like it. Not sure why, it just seemed tasteless to me. Maybe it was the combination of items I assembled. Room Service was always fast and had a really good steak sandwich. I wished there was a microwave though. It was a cold sandwich that I always thought would be even better hot. I mostly used room service to get orange juice all day since it was only served at breakfast and seemed very watered down. We went to Harry's for Ed's birthday and as I think about the experience, I am reminded of how your attitude to things really colors your impression. The restaurant was nice and intimate. The service was very good for the most part, and the food wonderful. However Ed seemed to get much better service than I did. We laughed about it, but it was like we were at two different restaurants. He ordered a Caesar salad and it was prepared table side by a very giggly young girl who appeared nervous but was very sweet. Ed was very nice to her to set her at ease and after that she even went as far as to tell us that she kept coming back to the table to get compliments. That was fine and good, but could she also bring some food? She forgot all about my Lobster Bisque and never brought it. When Ed was nearly finished with his salad, and my soup still had not appeared, I asked her when I might expect it. She was very flustered and went into a near panic. I tried to calm her down and told her it was fine, not to worry if she could just go ahead and bring it. She did and it was great! I had the New York Strip and Ed had the Surf and Turf. His was cooked to perfection, but mine was medium well when I had asked for medium rare. I have a thing about steak that is cooked all the way through. It loses the flavor for me. The girl had been so upset about the soup that I really hesitated to ask her to bring the correct steak, but I really don't like steaks cooked that way, so I asked her to bring me another one. She got even more nervous and asked me if I was sure that I had not said "medium well". Of course I know how I like my steak. At any rate, it arrived cooked the way I asked for it and it was delightful! Overall the experience was good. We had fun, the food was good, Ed enjoyed his birthday and we met some very nice people at the next table with whom we ended up spending a lot of time during the rest of the cruise. But as I look back on it, I realize that some people would not have characterized that as a good visit due to the slip ups. I'm very mellow though and it takes a lot to rattle me. We had My Time dining and it worked well. We only had to wait once, and the next day they sent us a plate of fudge and cake to apologize for the wait. I thought that was very nice. One odd thing about requesting a table for two was that the tables were so close that you were really at a table for 4 and ended up talking to our table mates each night we ate in the dining room except for one when we sat at a true table for two. We met some nice people.
ENTERTAINMENT There was always something to do. My goal for the cruise was to relax and I tried to do as much of it as possible. I spent a lot of time on the balcony and lying around in the sun in lounge chairs listening to music or reading or more often than not, sleeping! But I also made use of the many things the ship had to offer. There were several comedians who each did a family show and an adult show. Some were funny, some not so much, but I went to most of the shows and enjoyed myself. I did not go to any of the production shows. I did however go to the Love and Marriage show which was a lot of fun, the past guest party which had free drinks and snacks,and the Legends show which had some very untalented passengers, but was a lot of fun anyway. The night they did the color war was a lot of fun. We went around the ship in our groups according to our colors, red, white or blue and learned dances and competed and participated in various activities. We had a ball. Our team won by the way. The leaders had a way of energizing everyone. Ed, who is notoriously conservative in real life, was all over the ship partying at every opportunity and participating in everything. There was a sports bar on board and Ed watched a lot of football. They also sometimes played the games outside on the big screen. I also enjoyed the Jacuzzis, the miniature golf and the steam room and the sauna. I was really surprised that there was almost never anyone in the steam room or sauna. It was wonderful. One wall was glass and you could just lie there and watch the ocean. It was beautiful. Maybe people thought you had to pay since it was in the spa. But it was free. Ed used the gym daily. I walked though once and it looked well equipped. I usually like Karaoke, but the singing was so bad this time I could not stay to watch it. I have never heard such bad singing before. But as I said in my mini review, it was a great opportunity for someone who could not sing to feel comfortable getting up there and giving it a try. Everyone who tried it seemed to be having a good time. And that is all that matters.
CASINO: Ed won about $90.00, I think. I lost about that much. Enough said.
THE PASSENGERS People were very friendly and nice. There were few children since school was in and none of them seemed to be causing trouble. But since I am laid back, you would really have to be creating a scene for me to notice, like the day the teenager decided to tell his mother off because she got him pancakes instead of waffles. I saw the usual smart mouth teenagers, tantrum throwing toddlers and crying babies, but they seemed to only be bothering their harried parents who quickly removed them. I have long heard that Carnival is the "Walmart" of cruising and attracts that clientele. I shop at Walmart almost daily and see nothing at all wrong with Walmart. However, I also periodically get e-mails from friends entitled " The people of Walmart" that have a lot of pictures of bizarrely dressed, coiffed and excessively tatooed people who seem odd to say the least. Well lets just say that if I had a camera, I would have had plenty of new material for one of those e-mails. There was a large cross section of people. There seemed to be people over a very broad spectrum and just about anyone could find people similar to them, but there were some there that if I saw them on the street, I would never even think they were the type of people who would enjoy cruising. But they did, dressed appropriately for the dining room, or even to come out in public for that matter, or not. It still amazes me what people will wear. You have to wonder if they have magic mirrors that tell them that things look ok that do not. Or if they just do not care. But everyone seemed very nice and we met some great people.
PORTS We went to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. In Cozumel, we just walked around, shopped and had lunch at Margaritaville. It was so hot! People talk about how aggressive vendors are in Jamaica, but I think Cozumel was worse. We had a taxi driver literally follow us offering us a ride. I was getting scared. Ed was getting annoyed. Things in non tourist areas are so cheap. We went to a grocery store there and bought 6 hotwings and 2 20 ounce bottles of Pepsi for $2.01. Later when we went back to the tourist area, one soda cost $1.50. The vendors were so aggressive. I went into a jewelery store and saw a ring that I liked. He told me it cost about $400, I kept saying I was not going to but it. By the time Ed dragged me out of the store, the price was down to $80.00. Who knows what it was really worth. Everywhere we went people tried to get us to come into their stores. I felt sorry for them because I know they really need tourist dollars. Next we went to Grand Cayman. We took a best of Grand Cayman tour. That took us to 7 mile beach, the turtle farm, Hell and the rum factory. At 7 mile beach, we got out and took pictures on the beach. As soon as we got back into the van, it started to pour. As quickly as it came, it passed. Next we went to the turtle farm. It was more interesting than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it and learned a lot about turtles. We stopped by Hell to mail postcards. I mailed one to Chattanooga TN and it took two weeks to get there. I guess Chattanooga TN is a long way from Hell. At the rum factory, we did not see anyone making rum. We just sampled rum and rum cakes. Very good. I bought some rum, a rum cake and a Jamaican Patty. Very, very good. Our Tour Guide Nelson was very funny and entertaining. He even sang to us. We had a lot of fun in that tour. He took us to some of the residential neighborhoods. In Ocho Rios, we shopped and went to the beach. The vendors were again very aggressive and you were stopped every few feet and asked to look at someone's goods. It was annoying, but if you were polite and said no thank you, no one bothered you. At no time did I feel unsafe. I don't understand people's fear of Jamaica. Just use common sense and don't go off with anyone. No one touched me or did anything other than ask me if I wanted to come into their store/flea market. It was annoying, but hardly threatening. What they did do was lie to you constantly about the exchange rate. Every time we bought something and asked for the price in American and Jamaican dollars, we were given a different price. We bought some jerk chicken and patties and we were so over charged that I did not even want him to buy it, but Ed said it was no big deal and went ahead and paid the price. In dollars, it wasn't much, but it was the principle. The people are very poor and are trying to get what they can, but we would have tipped well. There was no reason to over charge us. We spent the day at the beach and it was wonderful. The water was clear and warm and I never wanted to get out. Those hours I spent in the water were probably the most peaceful hours I have had in years. I will never get used to the clear, blue, beautiful water in the Caribbean. Just perfect. On the way back to the ship, we saw a Margaritaville that we somehow missed. It was getting close to time to get back on the ship though so we were not able to stop by. Oh well, next time.
Overall, it was a great cruise.We were able to relax, get away, spend time, celebrate a birthday and have fun. There are often comparison's made between cruise lines and I wonder if they are valid. I have been on NCL and RCL in addition to Carnival. I think Royal Caribbean's buffet, pizza and room service are better, but Carnival's dining room, hamburgers and fries are better. NCL food was hit and miss. Some very good, some not. They also had too many pay restaurants. NCL's cabin was hands down the prettiest of all of the ships I have been on. We were in a suite on the Carnival Sensation, but on every other cruise we have been on in the last few years, we have been in a balcony. And NCL was the best of all. The Pearl had beautiful wood and glass detail. The bathroom was gorgeous. Royal Caribbean had more of a WOW factor than Carnival. There were many areas of the ship that were impressive and beautiful. The Carnival Liberty had some pretty areas but at no time did I feel overwhelmed with beauty. NCL Pearl was a gorgeous ship, but though pretty, it was not an overwhelming in your face kind of beauty, but elegant and understated. Very nice, but no WOW. In terms of fun, Carnival did seem to have more of a party atmosphere and very high energy, but in terms of activities, there was much more to do on Royal Caribbean. There was the least to do on the Pearl. They did however have the best Karaoke of all. On all three however there was enough to do to keep you busy and having a good time. I enjoyed them all. I love cruising. Our next boat will be Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. It is almost a year away, but I have already started my countdown. Happy Cruising!