This was my 6th RCI cruise. I've never cruised another line. Since my first trip on Monarch a few years ago, I've definitely caught the cruise bug.
We're budget travelers but somehow always spend a bit more than planned. We always take off-season cruises because of my line of work and that's when it's most convenient for me to be away from the office. I also like to cruise when kids are in school. I only have so much patience and even on this cruise with few children I still encountered a giggling group of British kids pressing all floors of the elevator - where are the parents. Anyway, this cruise we invited my sister and her boyfriend. It's always more fun with more friends and family along. So it was the four of us and we had a blast.
We flew in the day ahead and left the morning after. From now on this is how I'm doing it. No stress from arriving on the day of departure and having a day to relax before heading back home. We stayed at the Westin, Ft. Lauderdale Beach both there and back, a beautiful hotel with the signature Heavenly Beds. We arrived at the port bright and early at 9:30am and happily waited in line. We were the first to board that was not suite or special class. Once on board I followed my tradition of a cocktail and an immediate soak in the hot tub (before it fills with people.) Then once relaxed we worked our way to the Windjammer and eventually to our cabins.
Speaking of cabins, we again opted for the interior. I was on the fence about upgrading to a balcony but I think I made the right choice. There's just something about the quiet, dark space of an interior cabin that I enjoy. It's like a cave and I sleep so well. We were also toward the front of the ship on deck 6 which was a great location just a floor above from Sorrento's. I thought the motion would be worse in the front but it wasn't noticeably different than anywhere else to me. Actually on the one windy afternoon, the back of the boat seemed most affected.
Liberty is a beautiful ship, very well maintained. The only thing that eventually bothered me were a variety of burnt out lightbulbs here and there in the public areas, theatre, some sections of the twinkle lights in the ceiling of the game room and in Olive or Twist. It's just a pet peeve of mine. Another thing I could complain about is the crap sales down the promenade all the time. Plated gold by the inch, tables of cheap watches and jewelry, and then there are the better watches and cameras at prices slightly higher than current US online prices that I'd never buy. The liquor tasting could also be improved and it seemed like the selection was limited to cognac and cream liquors all of a sudden. RCI if you're reading this - how about a sample of some different spirits to try. It would be nice to experience some of the flavored vodkas, a unique taquila or rum, or mix a few cocktail samples of things that might be new to discover on a ship without having to waste a whole drink. In the end I stuck to my gin/tonics, beer and tequila and bought a couple t-shirts.
The food and service was great all around. Unexpectedly we did end up in the dining room a couple nights for the benefit of my sister. I really have grown bored with the dining room, dressing up and all the quazi-lala service and waiting around in the middle of bustling staff. I prefer the Windjammer or specialty experience over it by far. But it was fine and our waiters were kind and attentive. The food was as expected and everyone was happy. We LOVED our meals at Portofino's as always, and Johnny Rockets is a fun change of pace. You know when I like the MDR? During Brassarie 30 lunch. That's a good time to go.
I thought the shows on Liberty were at least 30% better than Freedom. The Encore ice show was so much more creative with great costumes and good music. Saturday Night Fever was as close to a real musical as I've ever seen on a ship. And the show, In the Air - well, we stayed for both showings. It was amazing, fresh, ultra sexy and stunning.
We climbed the rock wall, sister's bf did the belly flop contest, we won second place at Quest, danced in the disco, tried to make it to the midnight buffet/white party but we didn't even last long enough to see them uncover the ice sculptures. We were up and active as much as humanly possible and the only reason we didn't do more is because we just can't be awake, running around, drinking and eating 24 hours a day now that we're in our 40s.
We did the Lamanai New River Safari tour in Belize through the cruise ship. Worth every penny and so glad we picked this one. It took the whole day by bus, then boat and then a hike through the jungle. I loved the monkeys so much. Perfect for active cruisers who want to see a lot in a little amount of time. In Cozumel we rented a Jeep through Avis at the dock and toured the island on our own. Remember to check your gas tank if you do this. I just don't see how we went through $30 in gas that day. I think the car was parked on an incline when we took possession of it but you must return it full so lesson learned for next time - check the gas before you leave. We have been to Coz before so headed directly for the other side of the island to do a little beach bar hopping, Mezcalitos, Coconuts, the Rasta place - can't remember what it's called, and then back across the center of the island to stop at the taquila factory to pick up our favorites. We didn't pay for admission for the tour - just told them we've already done the tour before and wanted to buy. We still tasted a few things and spent about $150 so I don't feel bad about skipping on the paid tour - which was really not that interesting the first time anyway. Had lunch at that outdoor restaurant in the main shopping district - Palmeras? It's good, clean and rather affordable for such a nice location.
We did wait in line to get back through customs on disembarkation in FTL. I don't know what the hold up was but we took it in stride and eventually made it through and back to our hotel on the beach. As is usually the case after a cruise, we were wiped out that afternoon and after lunch found ourselves napping in the room for the rest of the day. Ahhh, the joy of a post-cruise nap. Thank you RCI for another great vacation and taking such good care of us for the week. I don't know that I'll ever be able to try another cruise line much less other type of vacation and be as satisfied. Even with the occasional hiccups, RCI has consistently delivered a quality product at an affordable price. Great job all around. We'll be back - maybe Bermuda next but it'll be tough to move down from the Freedom class of ships. :)