My wife and I had to take a 6 year break from cruising and returned to the Carnival Liberty in December. We choose the Liberty for a simple reason--price. We paid less than $50 pp/pn for an interior room and got to enjoy 4 Western Caribbean ports. This was our 7th cruise--4th with Carnival.
I'll start with embarkation. We shuttled in from the Miami airport. We were greeted by a joyful baggage handler who got our bags off bus, tagged, and us headed to the terminal in seconds. Getting through the first security stop went quickly--as did our check-in and boarding. No hiccups. We went by our cabin (which was already cleaned) and dropped off our carry-ons. We next headed to the Lido for lunch. The burger joint was part of the "fun 2.0" refit--and it was worth it! GREAT burger--great 'bar' to add choice of extras.
After lunch, we headed to the 'adults only' Serenity area. Became our favorite destination on deck. We were usually able to find some 'deluxe' chairs--occasionally a hammock. One disappointment was the Serenity hot tubs. Both were usually full--but rarely hot. (Throughout the trip, the starboard tub was only about 85-88 degrees!)
We did early seating dining in the Silver Olympian. Our steward was competent and kept the glasses filled, etc. But this was where we started to see a major slide at Carnival. On past cruises, the stewards knew our names/tendencies by the 2nd night. "Who has water/tea? Who wants decaf with dessert? Who likes fish?" They never got it...maybe because they seemed to be stretched over a couple of extra tables. Additionally, the quality of food/options seemed to have been dropped a few notches. There were some 'regulars' alongside the daily specials. I tended toward the fish--generally cooked pretty well with tasty sauces/glazes. My wife had the steak/beef selection. Though she ordered them "rare," they almost always arrived "medium." In the past, I would say the evening dining room experience was akin to a fine restaurant--our experience on the Liberty was more like casual dining at O'Charley's or Applebee's.
For breakfast, we generally stuck with the Lido selections. Had the 'build your own omelet' most mornings. There was amble fresh fruit/a few pastries. The hot choices were limited, however. Scrambled eggs, grits, oatmeal, and a few meats.
Missing completely were the special midnight buffets, dessert displays with ice carvings, and similar events. There were dance parties (usually green iguana or red frog) beside the pool. But it lacked the sophistication we found on past cruises.
That was a shame since the ship was stunning. This was NOT the Carnival of old with neon reds, blue, and yellows. The main lobby atrium was like a Gothic stone castle. It was highlighted by a large candelabra with lights that changed colors. The main theater was highlighted by large 20 foot tall "jester" figures. The secondary lounge--also the Comedy club--had lots of porcelain vases and glassware on the walls.
We had a great time! We'd do it again in a heartbeat. The cost was incomparable. However, there has been a very noticeable step down in the last few years. Strangely, the ship--itineraries--have been upgraded. They give the illusion of a more deluxe vacation experience. But on the more subtle levels, where the real difference might be found, our trip on the Liberty was a step down.