We arrived at embarkation about 11:35 (we left our car after driving to MIami with a cousin, and she took us to the cruise dock and picked us up afterwords-thanks Kristin!). We boarded easily and pretty rapidly, taking about 30 minutes to get on board. We proceeded to the Lido deck and had lunch in Emile's restaurant (the buffet). About 1:45, we proceeded to our cabin, which was spotlessly clean.
Ship's cleanliness: EXCELLENT. The crew was always cleaning and sanitizing the ship. One night, I was up rather late (I am a night owl) and about midnight, several crew members were washing, with sanitizing solution, the entire lido deck. Every railing (even ones you would not normally grab), every chair, the sides of the ship, everything. Except for a couple of minor stains on the carpeting (which will be replaced in October 2011 during a scheduled dry docking) the ship was sparkling clean and in excellent condition. I wish the doors in my house were as well fit and as solid as those on the ship. Everything on board worked flawlessly.
Crew friendliness: OUTSTANDING. Everyone aboard was very friendly and went out of their was to make your vacation a pleasant one. I literally cannot say a bad word about any of the crew. Everyone could serve as a model of how that job should be done.
The entertainment. What we saw was very good, though we only took in a couple of the comedy shows. They had two comedians aboard, and changed them around in Jamaica, so we had different comedians for the first half and last half of the trip. I believe that is their standard, so the two comedians who joined out ship in Jamaica were getting off in Jamaica so that every cruise has two different sets of comedians. We did not take in any of their 'broadway' style shows, as neither my wife or I are big on the 'rat pack' style singers (Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. imitators). In fact, in talking with other passengers, the general consensus was that the shows were lacking in variety.Now to the the bad:
Decor-Over the top in my opinion. Most of my experience os with much older ships, and I found the LIberty to be garish by comparison.
Food: The food was, frankly, disappointing, especially the desserts. Now, I am pickier than most, as I am a chef, but still, the food was not up to snuff in my opinion.
We primarily ate in the Buffet, as opposed to the dining room (we booked at the last minute and they only had early seating available, and my wife and I tend to eat much later than the assigned 6:00 PM, and they could not move our times).
The salads on board were generally excellent, and the soups-both hot and cold (except for the lobster bisque and corn chowders) were very good. The entree's and sides were generally good to very good too, as were the breads. A few of the entrees were excellent (the sweet and sour shrimp was outstanding-maybe the best I have ever had) but occasionally disappointed-for example, the short ribs were poorly cooked, tough, dry and flavorless.
However, the desserts, with a couple of exceptions, were second rate. They were primarily cakes, and my local Publix (grocery store chain primarily located on Florida) has much better cakes than were served on the ship. Some of the desserts were OK (they did better at the puddings and mousses than the cakes, pies, cobblers, etc) but in general, the best that can be said of them is that they were blah-they tended to be tasteless and dry. The Carnival Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, their signature dessert, is as good as people say it is-it is more like a warm yet dense chocolate mousse than a cake, but this dessert is only available in the restaurants, not in the buffet.
The grille portion of the buffet area (on the Lido deck) was excellent-the food was properly cooked, and never dried out, which is quite hard to do with hamburgers, the service was quick and friendly, with a good variety too boot. The deli made fine sandwiches. The Mongolian-a cook-to-order portion of the buffet making stir-fried dishes, was always crowded, so crowded that I never had the patience to wait for it. They need to triple the number of cooking stations, in my opinion, to really make this viable. Fish and Chips, on deck 10, (and generally only available at lunchtime if memory serves) served a lot more than 'fish and chips'-they served a variety of cold (ceviche, grilled octopus) and hot (fried oysters) fish products, the few of which I tried were excellent. I did not try any of the extra-cost food options on the ship, like the steak house or the dessert & coffee bars, so I cannot fairly comment on them.
After we finally collected the requisite number of people, we were herded into a taxi and driven to the helmet death (more on this name soon) diving area, which was sort-of a part of a local restaurant. The key information were were given is that Carlos was responsible for getting us back to the ship via another taxi after out diving-we were given the option of doing some snorkeling by ourselves after the helmet death/diving if we wanted to, though no one on our group took advantage of this. A few people from an earlier group did hang around and snorkeled. We waited in the restaurant/jewelry store (yes, also seemingly part of the establishment, as was a guy selling cigars) and were given a talk (read sales pitch), not on helmet diving/death, but on making black pearls, by the owner of the jewelry store attached to the diving/cigar/restaurant establishment.
After being given a locker key, we shed out clothes and were given instruction on how to helmet dive. This consists of a 70 pound steel helmet with a large face shield and an attachment for an airline. To use it, you go down a ladder into the water, they lower the helmet onto your shoulders, and you finish your descent down the ladder to the bottom. The main thing to remember is that you MUST stay perfectly upright, as the helmet just rests on your shoulders, and is the only thing holding you down. If you tip your head forward, water can get into your mouth or nose.
At this point, once all of us were on the bottom, we held onto a rope and walked single file in a square around the area. There is a part of a small airplane, plus lots of fish (they are fed during part of the tour, so they hang around).
This is when the death part came in. My airline came undone. The helmet, which is quite noisy from the rushing air, was suddenly very, very quiet. Too quiet. After 2-3 more breaths, it became apparent that I was getting no more air, but the bubbles from others said they were still getting air. As I was the last one in line, no of the other participants could see my predicament. I tried to signal to the safety divers (we were trained on how to do that), but they did not see me at first, so I turned around and started walking back to the ladder. The safety diver suddenly spotted me, and quickly came over and asked (by hand signal) if I was OK. I signaled back no, and they suddenly realized that my airline had come off. They used the backup regulator on their SCUBA gear to give me air while they found and reconnected the airline. Everything after that was fine, and I finished the tour, but for about 20 seconds, it WAS interesting. (In my youth I was a Red Cross and Boy Scout trained life guard, and if I had not gotten help in a few more seconds, knew that I could have dropped the helmet and shot up to the surface and been OK.) The ironic thing is that my wife is a certified SCUBA diver (I am not because of inner ear problems-though I had no problem at the 20 feet or so we went down with the helmets) and we had been joking that it should have been called helmet death not helmet diving.
By the way, despite the problems, I would do this again.
My wife went on a SCUBA expedition and had a great time.
My reason for a rating of 3 is that Cozumel is not really Mexico, but simply a tourist trap. If you provided guides in Spanish, it could have been in any ocean front country in the world.