Royal Caribbean - 5 Night Short Mediterranean Cruise
April 16, 2011
We were originally supposed to be on the Splendour of the Seas on April 14th, sailing from Lisbon to Venice. That cruise was cancelled by RCCL because they decided they needed more drydock time to rehab the ship.
We decided to keep the airline schedule and tickets we already paid for and make a vacation within those destinations. We spend a couple of days in Lisbon then flew to Barcelona for 1 night before boarding the ship. After the cruise we flew to Venice and spent a week in northern Italy (Lake Garda, Dolomites, Innsbruck, Venice)
This was our 15th cruise, our 5th on RCCL and our 4th Mediterranean cruise.
The ship: Maiden Voyage: May 19, 2007
• Passenger Capacity: 3,634 double occupancy; 4,375 maximum
• Godmother: Donnalea Madeley
• Gross Tonnage: 154,407
• Length: 1,112'
• Max Beam: 183.4'
• Draft: 28'
• Cruising Speed: 21.6 knots
The Liberty of the Seas (160K GRT) is the biggest ship we've ever been on. Before this cruise the Navigator of the Seas (140K GRT) was the largest.
The ship is in good clean condition and still looks new. The passengers were mostly European, with some Americans, Canadians and a few Asians. It was Easter vacation and/or school vacation for many so there were many families travelling together and lots of kids. The ship was very full. I'm sure it was closer to maximum capacity rather than double occupancy capacity.
There were waiting lines at every food station at the Windjammer and it was difficult to find an empty table. Sometimes there just weren't any tables or by the time you found one your food would be cold. Deck 5, the Royal Promenade deck was very crowded except when the ship was in port. It was difficult to even walk through this area at any time while the ship was sailing.
RCCL now has pool police to prevent the saving of deck chairs. Since there was only one sea day on our cruise, the pool area was very popular and busy and there weren't enough chairs. The crew would bring out more chairs for people and did their best to help passengers find a place to sit, but there were just too many people. Once the extra chairs were added the chairs were touching the next chair (even on the upper level above the pool), so it was hard to get in or out of a chair without climbing over a few strangers. The adult only pool was nice and quiet but if you want a chair there, get there very early and stay. All other pool area had lots of kids jumping, splashing and yelling - school vacation week, that's what you get. There is a new policy on RCCL that when you get a towel you have to give them your cruise card. If you don't return your towels (show the cruise card again upon return), they charge your on board account for the cost of the towels. I think it was $25 per towel. The biggest problem with this is that the line to get and return towels is sometimes up to 30 minutes long. They only have one crew member and terminal for this new towel system. I guess they think the passengers are stealing the towels, but they need a better system. There is always so much waiting in line on this ship as it is. I felt like I spent many hours waiting in line on my vacation.
Smoking - the smokers outnumbered the non-smokers on this cruise. It was a very smoky ship for the five days we were on it. There are non-smoking areas, but there were smokers there, too. I think it was such a busy cruise and so crowded that there was no way to enforce the smoking rules, anyway. I had a balcony cabin on deck 7. All of my neighbors (above, below and on each side) were smokers. RCCL does allow smoking on balconies but not inside cabins. I've noticed that on Caribbean cruises there aren't that many smokers any more, but this isn't the case in Europe.
Our cabin was starboard side, deck 7, aft. It was well attended by our cabin steward. The bathrooms are a little roomier than on the older RCCL ships. One day the toilets didn't flush on our deck. It took about 12 hours to fix and turned out to be a "vacume" problem. The beds are curved at the bottom to make it easier to pass by the foot of the bed. The bed itself was pretty comfortable, but not the best (HAL Mariner Dream beds are the best). The sheets are average quality. The pillows are foam, rather than down, but they give you plenty - 6 for two people. The balcony view was unobstructed except facing down you'd see the lifeboats under. The balcony in our cabin was small with two chairs and a small round table. The cabin was very quiet with the balcony doors shut. We slept with the door slightly open (no need for bungy cords anymore, the doors stay open) while we slept, which was very pleasant - fresh air and the sound of the sea. There was storage enough for a short cruise, but we had enough clothes and luggage for 17 days so had to leave some things in the suitcases under the bed. There is one outlet at the vanity and we bought an adapter to make 4 outlets out of one. The hairdryer is built into a small drawer in the vanity. It has a short cord and can't be moved, so bring your own it this doesn't work for you. Bathroom storage was generous. Shampoo/conditioner is built into the wall and of so/so quality so bring your own if this matters to you. All cabins are equipped with bathrobes to use for the duration of the cruise. They are nice, fluffy, terry cloth - we really liked the robes.
Room Service - we only used it for breakfast, but it was better than going to the Windjammer since the food was still hot when it came and we had a place to sit. You can order your room service from your TV menu or use those hanging placard menus before you go to sleep. You can also just press the Room Service button on your phone. They will tell you it's a 40 minute wait, but in reality it only took 10 or 15 minutes.
Food - I'm sorry to say that food quality was not very good. I actually lost weight on this cruise. The food is sort of cafeteria quality. The desserts were pretty good, though. Also, a lot of items were served lukewarm instead of hot. There was no lobster or filet on formal night. They had shrimp pasta and prime rib instead. The prime rib was small and dry. The food in the Windjammer was not very good either. The salad bar items had ice cubes in them. I know they do this to keep the food cold but when the ice cubes melt into your salad dressing it makes a gross soupy mess. Salad bar items were basic inexpensive vegetables. You won't find any chilled asparagus, shrimp, or heart of palm on the Liberty. Those days are long gone. The dining room service was good, even if the food wasn't. The wait staff was very efficient and gave service with a smile. I did get the CHOPs filet one night in the main dining room. It was the best meal I had during the cruise.
Laundry service - they did a nice job except for the laundry special day. This is 2nd to the last full day of the cruise when you can have as much clothes as you can fit in a bag, washed and folded. Navy cotton shorts came out very wrinkly and covered in white fuzz. I had one thing dry cleaned and a few items washed and pressed. You pay by each item but the results were good and returned when they said it would be.
We left from Barcelona. Embarkation was by deck number. It was quick and easy. After check in there was a place to buy wine and alcohol to sneak on board. Did I say that? Well it was suggested that you could. Many people were. At this point you've already been through security, so taking small purchases onboard in your carryon or purse was not an issue if you wanted to. We boarded the ship at about noon. The rooms weren't ready until 1:30. You couldn't walk to the cabin areas until 1:30 when it was announced that all cabins were ready. Until that time crew members stood at the entrance to the cabins to tell people to come back at 1:30. So we had the salad with ice cubes and waited for our cabins to be ready. At exactly 1:30 we went to our cabin to check it out.
Life boat drill was sans life jackets.
The first port was Villefranche (Veal -frawnsh). Also because it was Sunday, there were flea markets everywhere and right when you get off the ship tender in Villefranche was a flea market. We took the excursion to St. Paul de Vence. We had been to Villefranche before and had already seen Eze, Nice, Monte Carlo. I think that St. Paul was the best. I loved that town. There was a lot of interesting sculptures in the public areas. It was a Sunday morning but everything was open. Lots of art and boutiques, small cafe's with nice views and flowers cascading from every doorway. The next portion of our excursion was Nice. We did not get off the bus in Nice like the last time we were there. We just rode around the town and took pictures from a bus. I think it would have been better to stay in St. Paul longer and go straight back to the ship. Villefranche is nicer than Nice.
The next port was Cagliari, Sardinia. We did not have a ship excursion. We got off the ship, took a open air tour bus ride around the sites and got off in town. It was a large city with a lot of graffiti. It wasn't a pretty city. We went right back to the ship. I think we should have taken an excursion or hired a tour to get us out of that big city to see some of the countryside. I wouldn't recommend spending the day as we did.
Civitavecchia. We'd been there before and took the train to Rome. This time we skipped Rome and took an excursion to taste wine and have gelato at a small village next to a lake. The village was about a 40 minute bus ride from the port.
Shows: We saw a couple of shows on the ship. The ice show was very good. The other show is sort of a copy of Cirque du Soleil with the scarf acrobats. It was pretty good, too. The acrobats were athletic and skillfull. The music for the shows was canned. There was the sound-alike Lionel Richie singer. He was just ok. Several people left during the show.
We had a good vacation but because of the food quality I don't think I'd choose Royal Caribbean again.