This was my husband and my fourth RC cruise, and the first time on the Freedom class. We are in our early 30's, so we're a bit too old to fit in with the Spring Breakers, but I could see my husband wishing he could at times :) We traveled with another couple in our age group.
We got to the port in Ft. Lauderdale around noon. There was a huge line, and apparently the computers were down to check people in. Luckily we had priority check-in because of our C&A membership, so we were in a short line. After about 15 minutes, the computers were working again, and we moved through very quickly.
We went to the Windjammer to eat while we waited for our room to be ready. Food was good, as usual, but nothing mind-blowing. I don't know if the employees had a rough previous cruise, or if they had a tough staff meeting right before embarkation, but I noticed that many of them seemed less than thrilled at the new crop of cruisers. In fact, I saw one bartender in front of Sorrentos on the first day who was blatantly rude to a young man who was asking about dining options. Granted, the guy was a loud Spring Breaker who looked like a cast member of Jersey Shore, but still, he was treated pretty poorly by the bartender, who rolled his eyes and shook his head at every question. It made me feel a little uncomfortable. I can see why some of the staff may be judgmental of the Spring Breakers...my bet is that most of them skip the gratuities at the end...that was certainly the case with the tables of college students near us in the dining room. Still, no excuse to be rude.
We had a promenade stateroom, and we loved it. If you are a light sleeper, don't book one...you will hear noise until about midnight. I didn't mind, and I loved watching the parades from my room. Our stateroom attendant, John from the Philippines was amazing. He was so polite and efficient. Always greeted us with a smile. I loved him.
We ate in the main dining room 4 out of 5 nights. Our waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter were fantastic. Best service we've ever had in the main dining room. The food was above average. We also ate at Chops one night. Service and food were fantastic. They also gave us extra appetizers we didn't ask for just so we could try them. Yes, Chops is an extra charge, but considering the amount of top quality oysters, tuna, shrimp and filet mignon we consumed that night...it was a bargain at $30 a person.
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with us on this cruise. It was rainy every day, save one. I give the Spring Breakers credit though...they were willing to tough it out by the pool no matter what. When it was rainy and cold, they all got into the hot tubs. Seriously, those hot tubs were busting at the seams with so many college students! I'm not a huge pool person, so this didn't bother me much, but it was hard to find available pool chairs. I heard one lady curse at another lady for "saving chairs." It was kind of sad seeing people getting all worked up about stuff like that while on vacation, but I guess sun worshipping is serious business for some folks.
Our first stop was Belize. We went there before on the Voyager several years back. I swear the Liberty was stopped much further out. It felt like it took the tender boat forever to get there. Tendering is such a pain in the rear in general. We waited 45 minutes before we could even get on a boat. It was rainy, but our zipline excursion went ahead anyway. We did cave tubing last time, and realized that the cave tubing and ziplining excursions take off from the same starting point. Even with the rain, the experience was amazing...just as the cave tubing was last time. I think these are the best Belize excursions to do. Other people who did things "in town" had a litany of complaints.
Our second stop was Cozumel. Unfortunately, due to the weather, our speedboat excursion was cancelled. RC automatically refunded us the money, which was great. We found a hotel beach right next to the port that let us use their facilities for the day for just $15 (and that included a $10 drink voucher). It was a great deal, and we had a nice time in Cozumel.
I do agree with previous reviews that talk about RC trying to "upsell" you on everything. Bottom line, you must be aware of this and ok with this before you even book, otherwise you'll just stress yourself out. Remember, just because you are offered something to buy, doesn't mean you have to buy it. I think you can cruise very well without spending too much money on board. You can take the photos, just don't buy them. We loved looking at the cheesy photos they took of us, but we didn't buy them. You can drink the orange and apple juice they offer...you don't have to buy the fresh-squeezed. And I can definitely go a week without soda. Now alcohol....that's where the money added up for us on this trip. :) Drinks were expensive, but not outrageous. Make friends with a bartender and they tend to be a little more generous with the rum. At peak pool times, bar service was slow.
We saw two shows. "Up in the Air" was simply amazing for a cruise ship. It is a Cirque DS type show, and it was very well done (this is coming from someone who was born and raised in Las Vegas...I have very high standards). There was a special guest show...a tribute to the Beatles...which was also excellent. Our past experience with RC shows is that they have been pretty bad...this cruise was a 180 from before. Bravo RC!
Love the gym on board, although it was a little hot in there. Some interesting classes were offered...including a spin class. They are $12 a class, and I didn't mind paying. I quit using RC's spa. After two previous cruises where the masseuses' high-pressure product sales pitches made me tense up, I said "never again." Plus, the spa prices are outrageous.
I took the cupcake decorating class at the Cupcake Shop and I loved it. The instructor/chef was the sweetest man...he and his assistant worked in the shop all 5 days, and they were always smiling. The cupcakes are soooo good. They are $2.95 each, but worth it. Apparently, even RC staff are addicted. Multiple times I saw staff members buying them and eating them.
Overall, great cruise, great ship. The Liberty did not feel that much bigger/different from the Voyager class. It's always amazing to me the sheer number of people on the boat, yet it doesn't feel overcrowded. Everybody finds their little niche on board. The cruisers on this sailing were particularly diverse. Lots of little ones (and babies!). Lots of college kids. Lots of middle aged and retirees. But everyone seemed to respect everyone else and have a good time.
One random annoyance: RC is now charging $3.95 for room service if you order after midnight.
One last tip to close out the review. Take the stairs! I am always amazed by the number of able-bodied people who will waste cruise time waiting for an elevator.