After always sailing from either Florida or UK this was a first for departing from a non english speaking country. On arrival to El Prat Airport I had organised a taxi transfer for our party of 2 adults and 5 children for 130 euro return paying half on arrival and balance on departure. This was a lot cheaper than letting RCI organise (about 60% cheaper !!) The driver was waiting after getting our luggage, and in no time at all we where at the port (About 15 minutes)
First thing I noticed was that they where already boarding the ship (10.30am) and the whole process was smooth as silk, and by 10.45am we were on board and heading the Windjammer for some light morning snacks. Service was good and food was surprisingly better than our Independance trip a few months ago. As we were in the family suite we had "Gold Cards" which allowed extra perks like eating in a private area in Chops Grille, Reserved seats in the show's, sun terrace etc, and was a nice addition. Our Concierge Mario was fantastic, and his whole team was excellent. In fact at this point everything was the best I have ever experienced with Royal Caribbean and we were very excited about the rest of the cruise.
The new big screen on the Liberty was excellent clarity and when we finished our light lunch we went around the ship looking at the differences over the Independance which is virtually identical. One thing I did notice was that given the Hot Day the ice cream machines were closed on Deck 11, which was dissapointing and did not even open until the following day when I also noticed as with the Independance that they have withdrawn the Strawberry Flavour ice cream !! so thats my favourite gone !!
The rooms opened spot on 1pm and having stayed in the Family Suite on most trips headed to the back of the Liberty and entered the room, again, first thing I noticed over its younger sister (IOS) was that the room was carpeted rather than having marble floors and it looked a bit "Tired" which surprised me given the fact the ship is not that old. The drawer was broken and at an angle in the living area and the French Door was also rattling at the handle, but hey !! I am on holiday and can live with that. Now from this point the trip started to degrade which was a pity as I have always liked Royal Caribbean and being a Diamond Member have certainly showed them loyalty.
The following morning the family got our Breakfast in the Windjammer and headed into Chops to sit down and be spoilt !! Far from the truth that statement !! There was two staff on duty (Male) and besides asking our room number, we seem to have spoilt their silence or sleep pattern, as there was only one other table in use, they did not ask us do we want tea coffee, juice or anything they just went around looking busy and keeping as far away from customers as they could !! In the end I had to get up and get my own. The same story happend in the afternoon and we started to think that the inactivity in this room was caused by the laziness of the staff there not to server anyone, and this was bourne out by the fact it was virtually not used (Except by the British) and many times the comment was made that if this ship was in the USA there would be murder in this room !! lol, There was one exception to the rule in Chops and that was a Lady waiter who was superb and restored my faith a little bit with great service. The concierge did find out about this in the lounge from other suite guests and immediatedly remedied the situation but that was on the second to last day and in hindsight we should have said something earlier ... but then we are british !!
Meal times in the Main Dining room were strange with a 6.30 1st sitting on two floors, a 7.00pm 1st sitting on main floor, and first show times at 8pm in the Theatre, so this meant (as in our case we were 1st @7pm) we had 45 minutes to eat 3 courses and get to the front of the ship to see the Show's which apart from one (Saturday night fever) were absolutely awful, and way behind the IOS for entertainment. However there is so much to do on this ship dont leave it all for the Theatre for your entertainment or you will be dissapointed. We had great times in the Piano Bar, Jazz Bar, and Pub and I thank RCI for making me look elsewhere after such dire Theatre shows. I do think the main cause for this was that as the Ship had departed from Spain, and most of the clientele were spanish, then all the compares where speaking in english, and then speaking in spanish, which led to very elongated interaction with the audience and ruining any jokes he was trying to tell. This also applied to all on deck entertainment which in the end just bored me to death waiting for him to finish it in Spanish. I know RCI have not been in the Med for that long on this sort of scale, but it does need serious polishing to get it right as anything that costs (RCI normally Do) then the Spanish wont !! and there was serious complaints about the enforced tax and tips shown on every drink which added a total of 32% in tax (as I was told... Tax % and Tip %) to every drink ??
The Kids had the soda package which was also expensive but worth it !! and this is recommended to anyone with Kids on a Hot cruise. We had the Wine package and although you know you are paying over the top, what the heck !! your on a billion dollar ship enjoying yourself and this was one luxury we were participating in.
Catering throughout the ship was extremely good and better than most RCI ships we have been on, we did have one night in Portofino that did not work out as all the waiters were strutting around the Captain who was there with friends that 4 Spiedo de Mare ( Skewer of fish basically) went cold on the pass and when they serverd them to us they went straight back to the chef. We then had to wait another 30 minutes for a new meals which led to the Manager giving us a free night (Excluding Wine of course ...that would have cost them) which made up for the fiasco. I do thank the Manager for trying so hard after he realised the errors that were made.
The kids .... what Kids ??? did we have any with us ?? apparently so, my missus said !! anyway they had an absolute ball !! and we never seen much of them at all the whole trip (Ages, 15,14,13,12,9) so a 5 out 5 for the Clubs and this what makes our trip so much better. By the way we only raise courteous children who do not run around the ship like loonies and being disrespectful as seen on many occassions this time by other children.
I didnt see the reason to stop here, as there is nothing to see. There is a nice little train at the quayside which will take you into the Village far cheaper than a taxi will, and worth the ride for 3.5 euros return.
Nice little Town but nothing more to add. Most stayed on the ship, and personally would rather have had this a sea day after leaving Barcelona the day before.
We never had the time to go to Pisa which most did, we hopped on the shuttle bus from the ship (Charged) and it took us through the maze of the docks to the centre of Livorno which is a rather grey dull and dirty town, very much Industrial and did some shopping in the main street .. oh ... and had a Macdonalds just to remind me not to go home again !! lol,
I do believe that the trip to Pisa is well worth it, and most of our friends who went had a great tim.
So in conclusion, a another Fantastic trip enjoyed by us all, with some errors that need attention, although I dont think they will get away with it when it heads back to the USA first week of November, and disembarkation was as fast as getting on so top marks to barcelona as a port.