Carnival Liberty - Western Mediterranean: Carnival Liberty Cruise Review by davidrob
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Liberty - Western Mediterranean
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Rome (Civitavecchia)
After following Cruise Critics suggested format, we will share information in broader categories: Good News, News, and Not-So-Good News. First the traditional categories:
Background Information: Joseph and I are life partners who have traveled together for over twenty-five years. The majority of our trips have been cruises, so we consider ourselves very seasoned, very experienced cruise passengers. We are both professionals in our mid-to-late 50s and are in professions that are customer-service oriented. Cruising for us is an opportunity to relax, choose what we want to do, as well as what we do not want to do. Choice for us is the key to a successful vacation.
Hotel Information: We More arrived in our Rome port directly from our flight from Newark, NJ. We did stay at a hotel after the end of our cruise and would highly recommend it to anyone (singles, couples, families). We stayed at one of the Bettoja Hotels in Rome, the Mediterraneo, which was literally minutes away from the main train station in Rome (Rome Termini). More about this location choice later. We booked this hotel through hotels.com and were pleased with their offerings and their service.
Ship Information: The Carnival Liberty is a wonderful ship, designed beautifully, and worth a visit and a cruise. Apparently, the Libertys Europe itinerary is being assumed by the new Carnival Freedom. Im not sure why: the Liberty is definitely outfitted for a European itinerary and it seems duplicitous to build yet another sister ship with similar outfitting and design. The Liberty and its companion fleet members are all passenger friendly and full of well-designed nooks and crannies the passenger might not discover in one sailing. We would sail this ship again if its new ports of call are attractive. If schedule permits, it would be exciting to sail the Liberty on its 16-day transatlantic repositioning in November.
Activities: We do not think there is any cruise line that could not improve its onboard activities. In our experience, this has always been a weakness. We are not sure who is responsible for this weakness: cruise director? Company headquarters? Enough already with incessant Bingo, hairy chest contests, etc. etc. Most of the activities are heteronormative and do not consider the ships rather high population of gay and lesbian passengers. Passengers are always assumed to be married, etc., etc. This needs to be addressed by all cruise lines, not just Carnival. Carnival should hire some consultants (as should Princess, Royal Caribbean, etc.) to develop innovative activities for the rich diversity of passengers who sail the seas today.
Service: Carnival Libertys service was bordering on excellent, with one exception: the cruise company does not cater to the independent traveler and refuses to supply the information which would make passengers days ashore truly exceptional. If one is not taking a Carnival shopre excursion, one has to do massive amounts of research in order to have a wonderful time in the wonderful ports on this itinerary. More on this later!
Shore Excursions: As far as we are concerned, all shore excursions on all ships are overpriced, over-hyped, and superfluous. There was not one port of call on this magnificent European itinerary which could not have been explored independently by any passenger. The cruise director (shamefully) frightened passengers about pickpocket stories, passengers left behind stories. He also delivered misinformation about the reliability of local transportation and its ready availability. We managed our ports of call on our own and at each port saw more than most excursion patrons for a fraction of the cost: 50 80 Euros for two persons vs. 300 Euros for a Carnival excursion. Buyer beware! The excursions are overpriced and you can have just as much fun, even more fun, exploring the ports on your own. Honestly. Really! Dont believe the cruise directors hype about unreliable trains and lack of taxis and walking distances. Research! Plan ahead! Be savvy! Save a lot of money!
Summary: This is a wonderful ship with a wonderful itinerary. You must always advocate for yourself, however. If you are told you have to wait two hours before you disembark at a port requiring tender service because those booking tours have priority, simply keep advocating for yourself until the staff provides you with Independent Tour stickers. Independent travelers are not second-class citizens!
Travel to Port of Embarkation: Book your own transportation. Book your own flights. Go online and research trains and shuttles, etc. Be smart! One can get from the airport to the dock for 12.80 Euros each as opposed to the 60 dollars per person Carnival charges. Bottom line: plan ahead, have no fear, trust yourself and be wise.
Staterooms: The Libertys staterooms are more than adequate. Just be sure your beds are configured the way you want them (twin or queen) and be sure your cabin steward knows your preferences and likes/dislikes. The stewards are excellent and will do what they can to accommodate you.
Dining: A definite mixed bag! The dining room is your best bet on the Liberty (and its companion fleet). If you get a seating which seems not fitted to your taste, see the Maitre d who will, if possible, try to accommodate you. WARNING: Plan to see the Maitre d at 6:00 PM SHARP on the day of disembarkation. The food in the dining room was quite good. There were not sufficient vegetarian choices; however, contact your assistant Maitre d who will do all possible to accommodate special dietary needs. Wait staff is well-trained, friendly, competent, and accommodating. The Lido Buffet is not as happy a story. The hours of operation are not sufficient and the alternative dining areas (pizza, deli, fish and chips, etc.) cannot handle the crowds of people coming back from tours who find the Buffet shut down. This is a SERIOUS problem which Carnival needs to address. On our itinerary, the pizza station was NEVER prepared for the lines of passengers. A simple request for pepperoni pizza was always met by: 13 minutes. Not acceptable. Beverages were available and accessible. Breakfast was the worst experience in the Lido Buffet. There was never a variation in the menu for twelve days! At each buffet section, two lines (one from port one from starboard) met in the middle with passengers waiting for omelets and passengers looking for cereal competing for the same space. Senseless organization. Oh, and one had to literally BEG for granola which was kept in a mysterious place requiring a five minute wait. Appeals to staff, chefs, etc. fell on deaf ears.
Entertainment: The Liberty has a state-of-the-art performance with incredibly mediocre performances. Beautiful sets, beautiful costumes, excellent band, mediocre headline singers and dancers, pedestrian choreography, and horrid comedians. On our cruise the hardliner comedian was so awful, he took himself off the stage within 15 minutes! This was unacceptable and unfair to passengers who rushed from dinner to see this performer who had no business being on the ship. What was up with this booking? Who was responsible for this? The cruise director was all right, but gave us all the hackneyed jokes and set-ups seasoned passengers heard a thousand times. Enough, please, with the Bangor couple (Anita and spouse)! Enough with the set-ups, the bedtime stories which ultimately are sexist and irrelevant to the hundreds of young passengers. What must our teens think of Carnivals ability to offer sophisticated, with-it entertainment? We are both in the entertainment industry and one of us is a theatre critic, so we make these observations with deliberate concern. This, and the Lido, were the weakest links on this cruise and should be addressed.
Disembarkation: Smooth as glass!! Not enough free shuttle buses to Citiavecchia, but smooth and quick nonetheless. Kudos to the staff!
General: This was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship with a splendid itinerary. Passengers just need to learn to advocate for themselves, never take no from the staff as the final answer. Just be positive, reasonable, and the staff will do its best to assist you. Avoid screaming, gnashing of teeth, and other wailing. Be honest, forthright, insist you be heard and respected and things will go well. Carnival, please be respectful of the independent traveler. Provide access to local transportation information, do not scare us with silly stories of strikes and try to make us afraid of going on our own. Do not lie to us: there was no casino winner of more than a quarter million dollars who won that amount on this cruise. Respect us.
One puzzlement worth mentioning: While docked at one port about a dozen high speed single occupant boats approached us (sorry, I do not know what they are called). Although these young men came within inches of the Liberty (ostensibly to impress some female passengers on balconies), there was no security response at all! They just kept buzzing around close to the ship, VERY close to the ship and we found this disconcerting. Less
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