Our family of 3 (DH and I 40-somethings and our 15 year old son) and our son's friend, also 15, had a great time on the Carnival Liberty on the Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami.
This was our 7th Carnival cruise, our son's friend's first cruise, and the first time I've booked a separate cabin for the kids.
Southwest from from RDU to FLL was uneventful. We used SAS transportation and shared a van with two other groups traveling to the port for their cruise. We were then taken to the InterContinental (long story but the driver tried to drop us off at the Continental instead). The hotel was beautiful, but there was no such thing as early check in. When they say check in at 4PM, they mean it. Easy walk to Bayside where we had lunch at the Latin American Cafe--authentic Cuban food, and took a tour of Miami and the home of the stars on the Thriller speed boat. Later that evening, had dinner at the Hard Rock and then the boys went back to the hotel room while DH and I spent the evening at the new Havana Nine's Mojito bar--a GREAT place to get a little feel of South Beach in Bayside.
Taxi to the port the next morning was uneventful, only a few minutes away and a $10 fare including tip. The porter took our bags and we were quickly through security and had zone 12 for boarding. We were seated around 11AM after check in. Check in also changed room assignments for us to put the two boys in their own room so we didn't need to wait to go to Guest Services once onboard. We had a lucky break as the people behind us got the "under the seat VIP boarding zone prize" so we took their Zone 1 passes and we were onboard by 11:45.
The Liberty is the most understated Carnival ship I've had the fortune to sail She is really beautiful. The decor is not over the top and she was clean and well cared for. We were lucky enough to pick up 8450 which is one of the two extra wide aft-extended balconies. The balcony was half again as large as the other rear-facing balconies with enough room for two loungers, two chairs, and a table...get one of these if you can. The boys stayed in inside cabin 8446 which was small but just fine for them.
Ketut was our room steward and he and his assistants were wonderfully efficient, cheerful and all around great. Clive and "Smiley" were our wait staff and they were great. We all fell in love with "Smiley"..I think his actual name is Patuin? but once you see this guy, you'll understand why they call him "Smiley". Some slow service between courses, but the staff themselves were efficient and very attentive, so one of our better dining experiences onboard. We also did the Chef's Table and the food, as usual was great. This executive chef wasn't as "informational" as our chef on the Legend but it was a great experience nonetheless. We had the pleasure of meeting Komang "K" who is one of the most outstanding bar server/pool waiters we've ever had. What a great guy! Jen Baxter was our CD, and I for one enjoyed her "Mary Poppins" persona. She was actually very engaging when we chatted with her at the farewell party.
Great staff...I am a table player and knew I was in trouble when one of my favorite dealers from my December cruised walked up to the table the first night and gave me a hug. He and his fiance were on the Liberty and it was great to see Emil and Iluiana again...thought I didn't walk away ahead, I seemed to prove very lucky for OTHER people at the tables.
Ports--an overall great combination of 4 very different ports!
Half Moon Cay-truly a little slice of heaven. I like it better than Disney's Castaway Cay EXCEPT for the tender process which is nothing short of miserable..thank goodness the island is worth it. We booked a cabana and chose #7 once onboard. There is no way I'd want one any further down the beach though I think I wouldn't want #1 or #2 either. #7 was a great location, but I think #5, closer to the Pirate bar would have been nice too--we like a little action rather than complete solitude. Leaving at 3:15 was awful-took over an hour in a long winding line to get back on the ship.
St. Thomas-we have been several times and this time booked The Fury for snorkeling with the sea turtles. A great change from a simple "beach" day. Lots of interesting sea life and a great snorkeling reef in addition to the turtles. Highly recommend!
San Juan-do NOT let the taxi drivers convince you that the fort is "an hour's walk"...you can see the fort from the cruise ship and it is not a difficult walk. The walk down to El Morro (the lighthouse) is a bit longer--if you don't want that walk which is longer, a taxi or the local trolley is an option. The city is easy to get around in, has a great vibe, very friendly people and if in doubt..ask a police officer..that's how our boys found the Polo outlet, their other "to do" while in San Juan. I would love to go back for a long weekend.
Grand Turk--interesting island. Some beautiful views though we spent all our time at the Margaritaville pool right off the dock. Yes, its a "Spring Break" scene but it was fun and the pool area was beautiful
Debarkation was fine, and we were off the ship by 10AM using regular debark--had a mix-up with SAS on the number of passengers we had returning which added an hour to our travel back to FLL, but we had a 2:15 flight so no big deal.
Next time with four people, I'll get a car service--SAS was a bit of a pain though they were very nice. Certainly cheaper if you only have a couple of people.
Cabana is the way to go at Half Moon Cay--next time, I'll find a seat at the bar and head back on the tenders when the bar staff go back to the ship--they aren't going to leave them so I know I'll get a ride back.
Chef's Table is just as good the second time.
I would do this exact ship and cruise itinerary again in a heartbeat!