Carnival Liberty Eastern Caribbean 05/14
Beautiful ship, excellent crew and service (with one exception, which is Guest Service and a stupid policy involving the handling of liquor purchases for taking home), and great ports of call. I will cover cruise from embarkation to debarkation pointing out what I believe to be great and also what was not so great.
We arrived at the cruise ship pier around 11:45AM after a short shuttle from the Double Tree hotel where we stayed. Having an Ocean Suite I was granted VIP embarkation privilege. However, embarkation was not handled properly. After showing my boarding pass and asking for VIP processing I was misdirected to wait in the standard boarding lines. After a few minutes I noticed it was different than other trips I have take when I had VIP status. So, I left my wife in the line and asked a Carnival employee if I was in the right line for VIP boarding status. She told me I wasn't and directed me to the proper area handling VIP boarding. There the lady welcoming VIP forgot to take my boarding pass which further delayed our process since they called the names to process boarding matters in the order of when they took the boarding pass.
Anyhow, we finally got through the process and boarded the ship.
Our cabin would not be ready until 1:30 so we went to Emily's for lunch. Reading cruise reviews I knew where to go not to fight the crowd. My wife and I went to Deck 10 and used the Fish & Chip station for lunch. It was a lot quieter and much more room was available there than on deck 9 where people were gather like seagulls to have lunch at Emily's.
Finally at 1:30PM or so we went to our cabin (7314). It was a wonderful Ocean Suite. Plenty of room, closet space and well equipped with a large bath and dressing area. We met our cabin attendant Yul who ended up being very helpful and friendly during the cruise. We brought wine aboard and he ensured it was properly iced and also ensured our bar had the items I asked for.
After acquainting ourselves with the layout of the ship and having a drink in the Flower Bar located on Deck 3 we got ready for dinner. My wife's family was traveling with us so we had reserved seating for 9 at 6:00PM seating in the Silver Olympian Restaurant. There we met our servers Sudi the head waiter, Armon and Hazel his assistants. Sudi and Armon especially were probably the best waiters we have had during the several cruises we have taken. Always smiling. Always friendly. Always very helpful and ensuring we were served our meals in a timely manner. All through the trip they were the greatest. The food in the Silver Olympian Restaurant was very good. And, there was plenty to choose from. Normally my wife and I eat at the specialty restaurant once or twice a cruise but this time we enjoyed the atmosphere and service in the Silver Olympian Restaurant so much we just had all of our meals there, including breakfast and lunch and didn't use Emily's again after our initial lunch upon boarding.
We used room service every day for coffee and juice before going down to the Silver Dining Room for breakfast and received excellent and timely service every day.
Ports we visited:
Half Moon Cay - a very nice place to enjoy the beach and water. But I highly recommend getting a cabana since it is quite hot and a cabana offers some comfort and a place to relax out of the sun. The cabana's cost around $200 and handle four people. They provide soft drinks and snacks. Also available is a bar service to purchase beer and other drinks. At around noon time they provide a buffet lunch prepared by the ship's chiefs which was very nice.
St. Thomas was a very nice stop where we took an aerial tramway and enjoyed a panoramic views of the harbor, cruise ships and downtown Charlotte Amalie. Excellent choice to see a lot of St Thomas, Afterwards we took the National Park Island tour to St John's. From the cruise pier we caught a ferry (Island Girl) for a scenic cruise along the southeastern coastline of St. Thomas en route to St. John. The ride took about 45 minutes and was very enjoyable. At St John's we were met by a tour guide driving an open air bus. We were taken all around the small island where our guider pointed out all the places of interest, including beaches, old plantations, and other things. It was a very nice couple of hours were we got to learn a lot of St John's.
San Juan Puerto Rico was our next stop. We didn't book any tours but visited the Castillo San Christabal. It was built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site. An interesting tour which cost $3 a person. It is an easy walk from the ship pier. Don't bother with the cabs. Afterward we strolled the streets of Old San Juan, making purchases at various shops and then having lunch at a very nice restaurant. Surprisingly, our lunch including salads with conch and chicken, rice and beans, and a couple local beers was only $42. We enjoyed a very nice afternoon without the expense of tours taken through Carnival. Before boarding our ship while at the terminal we tasted some local wines and purchased three bottles to take home. Although we were told we could bring them to our cabin as I expected the wines were taken upon boarding (so Carnival can sell its own wines I guess) and told Carnival would deliver them to our cabin Friday evening (no problem since I was taking them home). However, later the handling of this became a big annoyance and denied us from enjoying our last evening aboard ship.
Our last port of call was Grand Turk. About the only thing to do there if you don't dive or snorkel is enjoy the beach. Which in itself is a very nice thing to do. Heading off the ship there is Margaretville where most stop and lounge at the pool area or beach. There are plenty of chairs provided without cost. The drinks are pretty expensive compared to three alternatives we found. The first is Jack's Shack located farthest down the beach to the left away from the ship dock coming off the ship, The second is Local Village where they have $3.50 local beers, $1.50 water and excellent local foods including conch fritters, And the third is Crew's Bar adjacent to Margaretville. I recommend visiting them. We really enjoyed spending some time at the Local Village and Jack's Shack.
Life aboard the ship was very nice but again Carnival does not enforce the deck chair rules. And people just place towels and occupy chairs all day whether they are there or not. The Cruise Director is annoying and her voice is hard to take. There are movies on the deck each night and also other things to do during the day, There are excellent shows at the Venetian Palace but the annoyance of Carnival selling drinks all during the performances distract from the shows. Comedy acts in the Victoria Lounge are enjoyable. However, Carnival over sells bingo for profit giving small prizes compared to the money they take in. We enjoyed having drinks at the Flower Bar where Bobby in the Lobby performed well on the guitar. We also enjoyed the piano player who was great and able to take most requests for tunes to play. But I would recommend staying away from the slot area where the cigarette smoke is overwhelming. The shops aboard the ship offer little except cigarette buys if you smoke, liquor for small savings, the normal jewelry and gold by the inch, and other items like tees. We didn't use the pools which were crowded or the Jacuzzis which likewise were crowded or golf and other things which could add to enjoyment if you are so inclined to use. We took a tour of the ship on the last day which even though we had done so before on another ship found to be very informative and interesting, ending with a tour of the bridge where we met the captain and had our pictures take.
Debarkation would have been no problem except contrary to what I was told when my wine was taken in San Juan, Carnival provided debarkation instructions that told me I would need to wait until Saturday morning to pick up my wines and that they would not be delivered to my cabin as normally is done on Friday evening. This presented a real problem for me considering I had paid Carnival for Express Baggage ($20 a person) to handle my airline tickets and processed my bags to my final destination and the bags would have been taken before Saturday morning. So I immediately went to Guest Services where I was told not to worry that they makes exceptions to their Policy (stupid as it is) that differentiate between liquor purchased on board and that ashore for those paying for Express Baggage service. I was told my wines would be delivered to my cabin between 6:00-8:00PM which would allow me to place them in my luggage before placing the luggage in front of my door for pickup by 11:00PM. This never happened and after more aggravation and three calls to Guest Services where I was told they would ensure my wines were delivered to me in time for Express Luggage service I still did not have my wines. I was finally told they would keep looking but if they could not locate my wines I would be reimbursed. Another problem! How would I know the wines were found? They weren't and I had to locate them myself Saturday morning further annoying my wife and I since picking them up meant standing in another long line. I talked with Guest Service who of course apologized and told me to take them to the airport (more inconvenience) and pay for check baggage and that I would be reimbursed upon notify Carnival Lines and presenting the bill (more work for me). Great, but that still did not compensate for all the aggravation and missing out on an enjoyable last evening aboard the ship. I also didn't get to sleep until after midnight while trying to handle the situation. I find the policy of differentiating between liquor purchased on board and off the ship to be stupid. I understand Carnival tries to suck every dime it can but they ought to also consider its customers in matters like this. I am in the process of negotiating reimbursement from Carnival for my troubles and expense.
Overall the cruise was real nice but keep away from purchasing wines or liquor off ship and also ensure communication is correct when boarding.