We sailed from Miami on Carnival Liberty on Saturday, February 4, 2012. We were in Room 7396, a balcony cabin on Empress Deck. We traveled with our 24 year old son and his family, including their 2 1/2 year old son, who had an inside cabin across the hall. We were close to the elevators and it was more noisy than other, similarly placed cabins on other ships. Unfortunately, the occupants of the cabin next door were chain smokers and this seriously impacted our ability to enjoy our balcony.
This was a first cruise for baby and mom, fourth for dad. It was the seventh cruise for my husband and myself. We last sailed on Carnival in 2006, and have had two other cruises since, one on Coral Princess to Alaska in 2009 and another Caribbean on Celebrity Equinox in 2011. I could definitely notice a difference in the clientele on Carnival this time. There were many first time cruisers. Mostly from the US, the group included people of all ages and all backgrounds.
We flew into Miami on Friday night, arriving at the Residence Inn Doral about 10 PM. We had reserved a 2 bedroom penthouse, which was just exactly what we needed for our group. We rented a car from Hertz to get our group to and from the port and that worked out very nicely. We were able to stop at Walmart to buy diapers and the toiletries we couldn't take on the airplane, then dropped the car at the downtown Hertz office. They shuttled us to the ship very quickly. No extra charge for the drop-off.
Check-in was the most stressful part of the day. We arrived at peak time and it took at least an hour to get through the lines. It was well organized but too many people were trying to get through too few security checkpoints. We kept our suitcases with us, which added to our stress, but then we had what we needed right away. Once through security, the rest was easy (No confiscated liquor was visible!)
We got onto the ship about 1:15, went directly to our rooms and relaxed a little. Then we, like everyone else, went to Lido deck for lunch. We very much liked the new Blue Iguana and hamburger spots -- really, really good food. I had fish tacos for lunch almost every day, and particularly enjoyed the huevos rancheros for breakfast. We did not care for the Mongolian stir fry, but many people did. I thought the Lido food was really pretty good.
The muster drill was at 3:30 or so, and I really wish Carnival would allow us to be inside for this, as Princess and Celebrity do. It was hot and I was pushed up against the wall, surrounded by taller people and it was very unpleasant. I completely understand its importance, but wish muster drill were shorter and more comfortable.
We spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking, watching sail-away and getting ready for dinner. The room was adequate, not large. The bath was large enough, but it was impossible to shower without flooding the bathroom. The beds (king) were fine, but a little hard. Nice pillows, and our steward brought the extras I requested.
We did notice a change in the food in the main dining room. The service is still very, very good, but the food is different. Portions are smaller, and there is less of a gourmet approach. I believe this results from Carnival listening to its customer base. There seem to be many folks who don't want exotic food but instead prefer meat and potatoes. We were able to find something we liked every night. We love the bread, the meat and seafood were fine, and in general, the food was good.
On the two elegant nights, we saw every type of dress from ball gowns and dinner jackets to shorts, baseball caps and 'dago-T' shirts in the dining room. This does not pose a problem for me -- I really don't care what other people wear, as a rule.(I do wish men wouldn't expose their hairy armpits in the dining room!)
We arrived in Nassau early the next morning. I found it to be too hot, and required too much walking, so I went back to the ship with grand-baby. The rest of the family did a lot of walking and enjoyed it. (I do wish this trip had gone to the private island instead of Nassau -- they switched after we booked.)
The other ports -- Saint Thomas and San Juan -- were both interesting in their own ways. On St. Thomas, we took a taxi to Sapphire Beach, which was just beautiful. No problem getting taxis either way. In San Juan, we took the free shuttle to the Forts and saw a bit of the city that way. When the baby got tired, I took him back to the ship for a nap by cab. It worked well for him and for me!
The highlight of the trip for my husband and I was Grand Turk. What a very easy and nice port that was! The beach is right there when you disembark, no need for cabs. I parked myself by the pool at Margaritaville (no charge, no pressure) and enjoyed my book. The shops were also right there, and it was a nice finale to the trip.
On our return to Miami, we were off the ship and waiting for the Hertz shuttle by 8:30. We rented a car, and went to an Everglades Air Boat and Alligator show. We all enjoyed that.
A word about Camp Carnival. This was a really nice service for the young parents, who could be relieved of the need to constantly care for their two year old. He enjoyed it, and asked to go back. As the week progressed, our grandson had a few tantrums, and once when he tantrumed at CC, they called his parents to come quiet him, which I think was a good thing.
So. Was this a perfect cruise? I always say there is no perfect cruise, and if there were, I couldn't afford it. But it was a very nice cruise. We enjoyed ourselves, got some much needed rest and relaxation, saw some nice places, spent time with our family and got out of the winter weather.