--This review is organized by port or event. We actually decided to carry on our luggage on the flight. It took some careful planning but we made it work. We really enjoyed ourselves and would like to share the things we really liked and things we could do without. We cruised in early March which was the first week of college spring break. There were many college students on this cruise - translate to lots of drinking and being loud in the hallways all through the night. It got better throughout the week. There were all types/ages of people on this ship of 3600 passages and 1200 crew. We traveled in late March previously and that cruise had fewer college students but lots of kids. I would probably take the kids over the college students.
--Transportation: We booked transportation pre-transfer from FLL with Carnival. The service was easy to locate in the airport, fast, and took us by comfortable motor coach. An employee had a stapler for attaching the Carnival luggage tags. The port of Miami was very busy when we arrived at 1:00 PM. We waited about 30 minutes to get through security. They make you throw away disable water bottles, but they will let you hold on to an empty Nalgene bottle, which is great for shore excursions. Another guest said they were confiscating people's one bottle of wine.
--Room upon arrival: We booked an inside cabin. It was below the galley and next to the ice machine the room stewards use, so we got some preparation noises during the day from the ice machine. We didn't hear any noise from dinner preparation above us. It was small but certainly sufficient for the two of us. Our room was ready for us when we boarded. We kept our backpacks with us so we can change into swimsuits and head to the hot tub. Lido deck was packed with people getting food. We tried the Mongolian grill for lunch. It took about 5 minutes per person in line to get their food. It was good but maybe not worth the wait. There is shampoo and body wash in the shower - both smelled good. Our complimentary basket had toothpaste, breath right strips, and some antacids. (They did not supply lotion or conditioner).
--Dining room: We chose the late seating in the dining room so we could have more time to shower and rest after land excursions. We chose the assigned dining because we wanted to sit with the same people and have the same server each evening. It was a little disorganized the first night but got better. We were assigned to sit with another couple our age and we really enjoyed their company. I was surprised to see the number of couples sitting alone. It would seem boring to me to only be with your spouse and never have anyone else to talk to all week long. The dining room food was generally average to good. The lobster and shrimp dishes were excellent. On the two elegant nights, guests varied in how dressy they were. Most men wore at least a shirt and tie, the majority wore suits. The vegetarian dishes were average. I order a filet mignon medium rare and it arrived medium well. I didn't want to make a fuss knowing how overworked the servers are, but just know that ordering steak can be iffy. We liked to eat breakfast in the dining room when we had time. They had some nicer dishes like smoked salmon and eggs Benedict. The lines for the buffet were almost always long. When we came back from the islands most of the food is closed and the lines are crazy. I recommend taking a piece of fruit to your room at breakfast. We took PB & J sandwiches on land because we had excursions that didn't feed us. (We brought a few ziplock baggies to do this easily). They say not to bring produce on the islands but no one was checking closely.
--Ship: We had previously sailed on the Carnival Valor and the layout of the Liberty was identical. The dEcor on the ship was odd. It was French Impressionism and wrought Iron mixed with retro chandeliers and casino carpet. Nevertheless, the ship was always spotless. Crew was constantly cleaning it. It is easier to navigate the ship by walking end to end on same floor of your cabin then taking the stairs to your desired location.
--Half Moon Cay: It is a private island that is very beautiful. We got off early because we had a morning excursion booked so we beat everyone else tendering. We sat on the beach most of day - very soft sand. The water was cold but nice to cool off in. I recommend the chicken for lunch; the burgers were overcooked and super dry. There is a trail to walk on. You can see the sting rays from near the trail even if you don't do that excursion. We booked a snorkeling excursion. The boat captain said the water is choppy and gave us the option of not snorkeling. My husband decided to go anyway and he said it really wasn't that rough. The captain must not get paid any more to turn people away. Carnival gave me on board credit for not going since the captain said the water was rough. DH said the reef was nice but nothing really impressive. We considered trying to snorkel past the signs to a reef but decided against it because it would be in boat traffic and no one else was swimming past the sign. We talked with some people that did the glass bottom boat excursion and they were disappointed with the views. Most people got sunburned on this island because there is no shade. I recommend spray on sunscreen applied a few times and maybe renting a clam shell. We were kind of hot and bored by the end of the day.
--Days at Sea: There were more activities we liked on the second day at sea. The hot tub under the slide was probably the warmest. It was annoying that some people saved lounge chairs - Carnival says that you aren't supposed to leave stuff on lounge chairs for more than 30 minutes. They will move stuff if needed. We enjoyed catching a couple sunsets. The Game of Love was funny. The Farewell Party in the Victoria Lounge on the last Day at Sea serves free alcohol. While we had rain (30% chance or more) predicted everyday of our cruise, we only had one day of pop up showers on our last day at sea.
--Entertainment: We enjoyed the comedians on the ship. Who knew a ventriloquist could be so funny!? The R rated shows were always standing room only, so I would recommend showing up 20 or more minutes early. The R shows were for adults only but they weren't overly raunchy. The family shows were less crowded and still generally good. Some of the content may not have been appropriate for young children. We attended some of the shows in the Venetian Palace. We were disappointed that some of the shows were identical to our last Carnival cruise two years ago. They were okay, but the music seemed geared for the 50 and over crowd. We missed the show most people liked best - it was called Wonderful World and was on Thursday night of our cruise. We liked to watch karaoke in the evenings. On the last day, the karaoke crowd did the Legends show in the Venetian. They didn't choose the songs they sang, so some did better than others. Again, the songs were outdated.
--St. Thomas: We docked at Havensight. This was our favorite port - we could see coming back here to stay awhile. It seemed safe and clean. The captain announced that we could stay an extra hour here. (The next port is very close) We walked to downtown on the waterfront which took about 30 minutes. There is a lot of shopping there - lots and lots of jewelry and high end stores. If you turn right at Havensight pier there are many souvenir shops just a 5 minute walk away. This is a great place to send post cards as it is US postage. The post office is on the back of a strip mall to the right of the ship. (Do this early because the P.O. closes around 3 PM ship's time). We did the two tank certified SCUBA boat dive with Carnival. The vendor was Underwater Safari and we felt this was a very organized and safe operation. We dove off of Buck Island and did a 60 foot reef and 40 foot wreck dive. The visible was good (80+) our day, but the captain said it varies greatly there. The variety of fish was good but not incredible due to recent hurricanes. We saw a nurse shark under the wreck. There were snorkelers trying to look at the wreck we were diving. It seemed way too deep to snorkel there.
--San Juan, Puerto Rico: We docked at Old San Juan. We left the ship at 7:00 AM and had Enterprise Rent a Car pick us up at the pier when we called from our cell phones. We were pleased with the customer service from Enterprise. It is a little confusing because PR is on Atlantic time so you arrive at 8:00 AM local time. (We prebooked this online and used the Ashford Ave location. Daily rental was $35 for an economy car, plus $11 in gas). We drove to the rain forest El Yunque which is an hour from San Juan. (Our Garmin worked in PR and was very helpful). Driving in Puerto Rico is not too bad. The signs are in Spanish but they drive on the right. Drivers are aggressive - similar to driving in Chicago. It was actually quite comfortable hiking in the shade of the canopy at El Yunque. We liked hiking the Big Tree trail to La Mina Falls (1.5 mi round trip) and Bano de Oro (.5 round trip). I recommend trying a trail that is not too crowded to enjoy the sounds of birds and water, not just talking tourists. We heard from some other cruise passengers that booked the Rain Forest excursion that they went to the visitor center, tower, and one very short hike. You can see more if you make your own excursion. The Carnival excursion seems geared toward senior citizens.
--Grand Turk: The cruise center is very beautiful. There is a public pool for cruisers and ample lawn chairs at the pool and beach. This area is like a built up Half Moon Cay. The pier is very isolated from the rest of Grand Turk. There is a little shopping but not nearly as much as St. Thomas. We did the two tank certified SCUBA boat dive and it was incredible. The vendor was Oasis Divers. You might want to check with them directly to get a better price than Carnival is offering. There were lots of healthy coral and an abundance of fish. The drop off from the reef to the deep ocean was eerie. We saw sting rays, eels, lion fish, and sea turtle. It was some of the best diving we have done comparable to maybe Belize or Cozumel. Our table mates snorkeled this day and thought it was okay. The reef is really too deep for snorkeling and seeing things well. It is around 30 feet deep.
--Post Cruise: We did a self assist with our luggage. They call floors 1 and 2 first to leave the ship. The customs line was a breeze and we out by 8:15. We booked at rental car ahead of time with Alamo. We used the MIA airport location and a shuttle picked us up at POM. (It was around $35 for the day). We drove the car around and went to a beach in Fort Lauderdale before our 3:30 PM flight.