Liberty of the Seas, the second enormous ship in Royal Caribbean's new Freedom class, is launching almost one year to the day after the inauguration of the class' namesake and is almost identical in layout and architecture (though my know-it-all taxi driver spent nearly the entire drive from the Miami airport describing for me in detail all of the physical differences between the two ships). However, Royal Caribbean has put a unique stamp of individuality on its style and programs so that there's more to differentiate it from Freedom of the Seas than the fact that one departs on Saturdays and one on Sundays on similar alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.
First and foremost, the line has launched an ambitious program called "Vitality Wellness" which is like a ShipShape program taken to the max -- well, one is tempted to say "on steroids," but that really would be an oxymoron. This is not simply an expanded spa treatment and dining menu, but includes a regimen of fitness, food, spa and shore excursion offerings, including a lot of Asian elements such as Tai Chi and acupuncture.
Expanding on their hugely successful adventure-centered marketing posture, Royal Caribbean has added to its menu of unique wedding experiences with "Explorer Weddings," giving couples exchanging new or renewed vows the opportunity to do it on an Alaskan glacier, in a hot air balloon, or while scuba diving at the bottom of the sea. This enhancement is a particularly appropriate choice for Liberty, as Freedom with its Sunday departures is more likely to attract those who wish to tie the knot on Saturday before embarkation.
Liberty also debuts enhancements to youth programs, including the launch of the youth version of its Crown & Anchor loyalty program, which gives kids perks similar to adult members, and expanded offerings in theater, dining, cooking and crafting.
Everything else about Liberty, other than art and theme, is pretty much a carbon copy of Freedom. However, I’m just minutes away from a two-night inaugural "cruise to nowhere," and have had little time to do much more than don a life jacket and make an appearance at the lifeboat drill. I will be posting my observations and answering questions on my "blog in a thread" -- live from the ship. Got questions for me? Post them here!
--by Steve Faber, Senior Contributor