The 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty launched in 2005 as the fourth of five ships in the line's Conquest class, the series that preceded the splashy Dream-class trio. In fall 2011, Liberty became the first Carnival ship overhauled as part of the $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 initiative, a multi-year program focused on adding "signature" dining venues, bars and entertainment options to more than a dozen ships. Among Liberty's plethora of new offerings, passengers will find a candy store, four new soon-to-be signature bars (at two of which you'll find an iguana and a frog doing battle), comedians approved by George Lopez and burgers backed by the Food Network's Guy Fieri.
Like its Conquest-class sisters, Liberty also boasts a decent ratio of cabins with private balconies, a library, an ornate three-deck theater and a series of shops. The hard-to-please teen set get their own nightclub, too (which is located along the promenade with the rest of the "adult" fare).
On the new(er) Carnival Liberty, the experience is quintessential Carnival blended with a handful of twists. The "old faithfuls" are still here: personal and efficient service; comfortably sized, charming cabins; and varied evening entertainment ranging from Vegas floor shows to jazz to the "piano man," who packed in the crowds with his group singalongs. Cuisine often exceeded expectations, particularly at the for-fee Harry's Supper Club and the new, and free, Guy's Burger Joint -- not to mention Emile's buffet, the fish-and-chips bar, the sushi station and even in the dining room, where the waiters sang and danced. (Sadly, the 24-hour pizza joint missed the mark.) And the new EA Sports Bar, with its video games, flat-screen TV's and beer, has to be the best man cave at sea.
Ultimately, Liberty 2.0 offers a glimpse of what the Carnival ships of the future will look like following their similar overhauls (scheduled through 2015) -- same comfortable, unpretentious vibe but with a few more menu options and, in the form of Guy Fieri and George Lopez, a few more recognizable faces.