Liberty of the seas Back to Back June 20 - July 4, 2010
We are a family of four (40s adults and teens 11,14) and stayed both weeks in JS/D1 1706/1704. We have cruised previously with Royal Caribbean on Serenade of the Seas.
Bottom line at the top: Wonderful ship, staff, food, excursions, and activities for all. A few things could be tweaked a bit (read on).
Embarkation: Took a Taxi ($7) from Marriott Biscayne Bay (nice location, under construction, bad food) and showed up at the dock at 11 AM and were on board by Noon.
back-2-back turnaround day: A nice experience. As a back-2-backer you are the last to leave the ship and have to leave the ship due to immigration/customs. It was a seamless experience with a few perks. We met up in the diamond lounge at 9:45AM where they had a spread for us (all 9 of us B-2-Bers). It was very nice and we were escorted by the diamond concierge through a customs formality. We waited for about 15 minutes for the "all clear" and we were escorted back onto the ship where they took our photograph for the new keycards that we already received in the room the night before and literally had to do nothing. We then had the ship to ourselves (all of the pools!!) for at least an hour before we saw anyone else. It was quite a fun experience. We were first to the flowrider and had it to ourselves for nearly an hour before the first kids started to realize it was running.
Disembarkation: Not as much fun as embarkation but again we were off the ship within an hour. The taxi line was from hell and a bit disorganized but we were off.
Liberty and her amenities (with my hot tips). The Flowrider is really quite fun and does not require any kind of expert experience to do it... so do it! We were all pretty much experts (on the boogie boards at least) by the end of the second week. The rock climbing wall was also quite doable but it's probably a one or two-time thing. The song/dance shows were OK but honestly not worth doing unless you had nothing else you would like to do. The ice show however is a must-see (perhaps even twice or more). The farewell show was a lot of fun. The Quest game (show) was also a lot of fun even though we chose not to participate. The promenade is really great as it tends to be a gathering place every evening. Seattle's best is quite nice and great coffee, pastries, cookies, and sandwiches are free and seemingly always available. Only specialty coffee drinks cost extra. Also Sorrento's has great pizza, antipasti, and other goodies always available and also free. These two places can easily be a nice stop for lunch and are seemingly never crowded. We were perhaps surprised at how nice both places were and felt less "nickel and dimed" than we thought we would be. The Hoof and claw has a decent evening soloist and they make a mean gin and tonic. Vintages has a large variety of very good to excellent wines at unfortunately astronomical prices. However, it was a nice place to sit if you wanted a quiet glass of wine. It is important to note that the only wine expert on the ship can be found in Vintages. There is no longer a sommelier in the dining room. Shopping was also well done with several shops and you could buy anything from trinkets to Omega and Rolex watches.
Our rooms and attendant: We had the "best seats in the house". The aft cabins on deck 10 have huge balconies and they are covered which is actually a huge plus. Never wet or covered in soot. We absolutely loved our adjoining rooms. The junior suite is a bit bigger than the D1 and the bathroom has a nice tub. It has a good size closet. The dEcor is nothing special over the D1 but we loved the room. We have booked a GS for the next voyage (yep... on the Liberty) but it may be a step down due to the smaller and starboard balcony we will experience. Our attendant was Norman from the Philippines. He was awesome. He was attentive and interactive and always on the ball. My daughter cried when we had to leave him. Over the two weeks I think he made 24 DIFFERENT towel creatures. The room was always made up with ice at the ready.
I was concerned that the main dining room would not live up to our experience on the Serenade. This was not the case. The food was consistently great to excellent. We consider ourselves foodies (not fatties) and enjoyed every meal we had in the dining room. There was quite a variety. The sea bass on the first night was excellent. I tend to stay away from pasta (a foodie not a fatty) so I can't comment on any pasta dishes. For us we did have the nightly Indian dish to share for the table which we also did on the Serenade (ends up quite a tasty side). All of the salads were good and produce was always amazingly fresh. We ate at Portofino's twice and Chop's Grille twice during the two weeks. All of the meals were excellent. Portofino's menu has changed but we liked everything. The signature seafood tower was great. I was boring at chops as I had the Filet Mignon both times... excellent. They're Caesar salad is great as well. The wait staffs at both restaurants were also excellent and very attentive. We had some wonderful Pinot Noirs (a Domaine Drouhin in particular) albeit at astronomical prices. And yes... we did also have lunch at Johnny Rocket's a few times and while I think it should NOT cost extra ("nickel and diming") the chicken sandwich is quite good. The staff is fun and fun loving even if their IQ is a bit low (I know... I am mean).
Meet and Mingle
We had fun and won most of the prizes but it was unfortunately poorly attended although our daughter did make a friend there.
Ports and excursions
We are typically a "find a beach and snorkel" kind of family but we did do a few excursions on this trip.
Labadee, Haiti (beach day)
Stayed on the bay side facing the ship. Very nice but slightly crowded beach.
The BBQ was as could as it could be given the heat etc.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica (beach day) Found a cab driver that took us to a "full service beach". Unfortunately forgot the name although we had a nice time.
Grand Cayman (kayak / snorkel adventure)
This was a very nice excursion although we would have liked more time at the beach afterward. Snorkeling was top notch and the Kayaks were fun.
Cozumel (Tulum ruins and beach) A long excursion...9 hours which delayed our ship departure (which was fun). It was expensive but it was worth it. The whole day was top notch from the luxury buses to the ferry ride to Playa Del Carmen, the stunning Mayan ruins, the amazing Mexican lunch buffet including fresh black beans and Mahi Mahi, and a knowledgeable Mayan guide. We had 90 minutes to play on the beach in Tulum which was beautiful. Our head waiter accommodated us in the dining room for late seating as we were reserved for early seating dinner.
St. Maarten (Le Galion Beach). This is our favorite stop and our favorite beach. This was our second time to Le Galion and it is beautiful. It is a 25 minute taxi ride from the port to the French side. There is a wonderful beach shack run by a French couple and they serve true French ham and cheese sandwiches and other goodies including beers for 2 euro. In our two trips there we have never seen more than 50 people on the whole beach and you can swim out several hundred feet at 5 foot depths.
Puerto Rico (hot and sweaty) We like Puerto Rico but this time it was very hot and there was a lot of construction. The terrible port time (7am to 2pm) is ridiculous and really makes it virtually impossible to do anything immersive.
Labadee, Haiti (beach day)
We returned for another beach day. Found reasonable snorkeling as well.
Things we would change if we could.
First off, I have no problem with a soda charge... we could all do with drinking less soda anyway. BUT.... Here we go......
* music at the main pool is way way way too loud and obnoxious. Forget about having a conversation with your new friends while the band is playing. Also, steel drums and booming bass riffs are fun.... For about 10 minutes. After that every song basically sounds the same. Holy crap!!! Also, bringing the DJ down for the breaks to play the latest loud dance grind is way over the top as well. However the "fruity" drinks are good. What ever happened to realizing you are on a ship and there is a spectacular view constantly the ocean to hear under the ship!!
* Charging $2 for an espresso after dinner is just stupid. How many people will even order an espresso? Charging for it is just a bad decision and nothing but a pain in the ass for everyone involved. They charge this even in Chops and Portofino. This is the definition of "nickel and diming" and it's hard not to feel cheated even if it's $2.
* in lieu of free non-alcoholic drinks on board perhaps they could provide a drink coupon book good for two free drinks (espresso drinks or soda) per day and just increase the cruise price accordingly.
* Royal needs to find a good/solid producer of a medium bodied red and a medium bodied white wine and have it available by the glass at a modest markup. Right now I would say the wine prices on average are a 100%+ markup. That is insane. They should also allow a two bottle per adult allowance to bring their own wine. This can account for special occasions where picking the one bad wine on the list just won't do. Again if this is where the profits are coming then increase the cruise price slightly to account for it.
* I couldn't come up with a 5th except maybe to either remove Puerto Rico as a stop or make it a late arrival (2pm) and late departure (say 10pm).