These notes are payback to other CC cruisers who contributed to our cruise experience with their writings in the past:
ARRIVING IN FORT LAUDERDALE
We arrived VERY EARLY at Fort Lauderdale Airport on Sunday at 5am (the morning our cruise departed). We talked with a group in the baggage claim area that were headed to a Princess ship in Miami for their cruise. We both arrived so early that we had to wait for the Port of Miami to open up before our shuttles/taxis would would be granted entrance so we had to go sit somewhere till at least 10:30AM.
OPTION ONE-The group headed to the Princess ship were headed to the food service area at FLL airport that were open around 6AM. As of this post there is a Dunkin Donuts as well as a Chili's along with several other food services. The most important observation is that you can leave security, pick up your baggage and still walk right in to the food service area. We are not used to this in all of our travels as the food services are usually behind the security checkin walls.
OPTION TWO-SAS Shuttle picked us up at the airport and then dropped us off at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami. We chose the IC because it is a five minute ride to the Port from the hotel plus you can see the ships at the port from the front of the hotel. We checked our bags in with the hotel for $1 per bag and enjoyed the spacious lobby of the IC. There is a Starbucks in the hotel lobby area that opens at 7am plus there is also a first-class Sunday breakfast buffet (appr $30). We chose Starbucks. We took a taxi from the IC Hotel at 11am directly to the Liberty Cruise terminal and proceeded to the check in area.
Our registration process went smooth and in less than 30 minutes we were ready to board. We had booked a Jr. Suite and we were processed quicker than the line of Platinum and Diamond members. Actually, we were embarrassed that we were given such priority over the others.
We were ready to board around 11:30 but the ship had not been released by Customs to begin boarding. We were provided priority seating that was supervised by cruise staff. We finally began boarding at 1:30 and we were on the boat and in our cabin before 2PM. A wedding party was in line in front of us where the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 1:30 onboard but I do not think that they were allowed on until 1:45PM. The staff said this delayed embarkation for us was due to the large number of international travelers that were on board the cruise before us. Note to self: expect more of this boarding after noon as the percentage of international cruisers globally is increasing.
ON BOARD LIBERTY ON DAY ONE OF CRUISE (SUNDAY)
In the past our first action on board was renting DECT phones for our group from the Guest Services desk on Deck 5. The $25 fee per phone we had paid was the best expense we had incurred on a cruise but this cruise we were told the phones were not available for rent by families any longer on any Royal ships (I would encourage anyone to ask upon boarding and not take my statement as final). It is public knowledge that Oasis is using modified iPhones for inter-ship communication and I was told by one Liberty rep that LOS may come out of dry dock in the next few weeks with that same capability.
DAY TWO-AT SEA (MONDAY)
Liberty is headed to dry dock in two weeks for some great upgrades. Wish we had them now like the cupcake store and big screen up on pool deck and a few more things they are adding.
One other thing that is happening now and scheduled to be completed in drydock is the addition of internet capacity. The cables were being installed as we were on ship. As for "wifi" internet service while onboard, log in to "royal wifi" not "liberty" because the liberty connection is for staff only. Once you choose the "royal" connection a log-in page should come up on your browser. Wait up to five minutes before refreshing and starting the process again because there are not enough IP connections for all the electronic devices right now until the upgrade is complete (this was according to the installers on board the ship doing the work). If you have any further questions then go to the Guest Services Desk and ask for the Internet Connection brochure. This printed brochure will help resolve any further questions that may not be explained to you. Perhaps these brochures should be made available at the Internet Cafe.
When you use the Internet Cafe computers there list options to tour the Royal Caribbean website for free since you are shopping for cruise information. The sad part is that it did not work all week. None of the free information sites that were offered ever worked throughout the cruise. A good idea became very negative because the only way to consider cruise information on your own was to log on to your internet account and pay .65 per minute (or slightly cheaper if you had purchased a package).
DAY THREE-AT SEA (TUESDAY)
DAY FOUR-PHILIPSBURG, ST. MARTEEN (WEDNESDAY)
Karen Taylor was our shopping guide onboard the ship. She is the best we have ever met. After all her meetings she stayed around and answered questions one at a time.
We toured the Butterfly Farm on the French side. Worth it.
We also shopped in Marigot for part of the afternoon. If you are looking for a place to get a snack or pizza or a quiche or a sandwich or ice cream then go to Sarafina's in the central area of Marigot. Everything is fresh and fair priced. You go thru the line quickly and can sit in the shade or sun or leave.
DAY FIVE--SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (THURSDAY)
We got off the ship as soon as it docked and proceeded to LaBombonera for breakfast. It has been around more than 100 years. Highly recommended by other CC cruisers. Breakfast for two was less than $20 including beverages.
Karen Taylor announced the times she would be present at the various stores in port. She did the same thing in Philipsburg, yesterday. We met her at one store and she spent five minutes with us helping us evaluate the jewelry we were considering a purchase of. Thanks, Karen.
DAY SIX-LABADEE (FRIDAY)
Labadee was "far better" than I thought it would be. I underestimated it. There is something for everybody. We travelled with some people with special needs and Royal had anticipated the situations ahead of time.
If you take the boat to Columbus Cove be aware that there is an extended walking path and stairs you must traverse before things level out. There is a tram that travels between this farthest area away from the ship that runs every fifteen minutes but it does not start for an hour or so after arrival.
The zip line over the ocean and dragon tail ride were unique for a cruise ship recreational area.
Food was brought onshore from the ship then cooked and was good.
Our group of 19 is coming back here in 2012 on a future cruise and everyone is already looking forward to the day at Labadee.
DAY SEVEN-DAY AT SEA (SATURDAY)
FYI-Saturday afternoon a cruise rep came to our cabin and checked the contents of the in-cabin frig. Be ready for this visit. This is not done by the Cabin Steward.
The food was quite good in the Windjammer and in the main dining room all week. Snack places like Sorrento's for pizza and cookies, etc. were also good. We sat at a table for six for dinners and the other two couples that we sat with have quite a few cruises on other cruise lines. Their comments were that overall Royal is at least equal to or better than other cruise lines in their category until you move up the ladder and go on a premium cruise line.
We paid for the Royal Suitcase Valet program which took our luggage from the hallway on the final night of the cruise and delivered it to the airline for us. They gave us a receipt and our check in paperwork. We boarded the flight home from this. Well worth the $20 per suitcase we paid because we had six hours of free time before we were due at the airport. NOTE: This service is active for Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports and is also limited to certain airlines. Highly recommended.
Was this ship crowded? This cruise was SOLD OUT and we never felt there were large crowds. I always found a lounge chair on deck, always found a place to sit when eating pizza at Sorrento's, always found a slot to play, never waited more than two minutes to get a specialty coffee, never waited more than three minutes for an elevator and always found seating for the evening programs.
SUNDAY- THE END
I sent SAS shuttle an email while on the cruise asking them pick us up and shuttle us to FLL after the cruise. They returned an email confirming that they would pick us up and get us to FLL airport. They gave me a phone number to call once we had gone thru Customs. I can not say anything more than USE SAS. They are great and reliable. Cost is $15 per person plus tip.
While on the shuttle headed to FLL we exchanged notes with a group of adults (singles and couples all in their 20s) who had just completed a cruise on the Carnival Glory. They all enjoy eating at 6pm scheduled dinner and not the mytime schedule. I heard the same thing from the various people I interacted with on the Liberty. Perhaps this new fade of mytime dining is leveling out even with the younger group.