Liberty of the Seas Cruise Review by spork1958
- Sail Date: December 2016
- Destination: Western Caribbean
Galveston is a convenient departure port for many from the central states, as seen by the overwhelming number of Texans, et.al, aboard. The area around the cruise ship terminal is industrial, but the terminal is functional and handles crowds impressively. TIP: Google maps routes you down Harborside towards the terminal, but that will result in at least a 45 min wait to turn left into the unloading area...go on down to 25th street to enter directly into the area. Once in, unloading was smooth. If you have a lot of bags, use a porter; it's worth the $10 or so in tips. We used the Port parking...was awesome. Reserved online, easy access and they don't charge if you have Disabled Veteran Texas plates. The security lines moved quickly (another TIP: our 78 year old used a walker, but had we put her in a wheelchair, they would have expedited us like high level C&A members), as did the registration...online check-in was VERY valuable and made the actual check-in a piece of cake. Minus the traffic issue, we were aboard in a little more than half hour. Cabins were ready by 1 pm and most of our bags were already delivered!
We had balconies all in a row (Thanks, Tony, our cruise broker!) and generally, were very good...we had a minor prob with our safe (fixed after two maintenance trips) and one cabin had a minor plumbing prob (also handled quickly). Cleanliness was excellent; everything worked (mostly) and considering the amount of unceasing use they get, they were in good shape. Our two cabin attendants quickly rearranged the beds according to need. I thought they were outstanding, albeit obviously overworked...my particular cabin attendant was responsible for 17 cabins! Over all, that was an impression across the ship. Cutbacks at the RCCL executive level have increased the workload of the ship crew, IMO. Politeness was almost always returned with politeness.
I love the traditionalist view of shipboard dining the "old-fashioned" way--in the MDR, at set times, and so forth. Accordingly, almost all our evening meals were there. My sense is that in the next few years, that will go away, entirely. Our wait staff was as attentive as they could be, but were distracted by having to serve a number of tables, both small and large. Additionally, the kitchen got slower and slower throughout the cruise. We often waited for food for very long times--that wasn't on our wait staff who tried their best to get drinks, cater to specific needs (kudos for them taking care of the one family member with very detailed specialized food requirements--they were assiduous in taking care of her menu, always!), and were always friendly. MDR food was recently described on Cruise Critic as edible and in large quantities. That's fairly accurate. The days of fine dining in the MDR (without an upcharge!) are long gone. It's "Applebee's," not "Capitol Grille!" Pasta and chicken abound and the few offerings of steak were not high end cuts. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorable. If that doesn't sound appetizing, I would encourage Liberty of the Seas cruisers to budget a bit more and just plan on evening meals in the specialty dining areas...that's what RCCL wants you to do anyway and that's where the kitchen focus is. MDR at breakfast isn't bad, btw...but, even the Eggs Benedict were forgettable.
The Windjammer is a different story. The food is as you would expect...generally, good, and occasionally, very good. Again, the service was outstanding considering the large number of people (almost) always present. Politeness seems to go a long way, but I was saddened at the number of rude, pushy, and generally uncouth passengers demanding "above and beyond" service in the WJ. The WJ is a great place when there are no people there! :D Of course, there were a lot of children on the cruise, but the most unruly and poorly behaved usually were right with their parents, who seemed to approve of their lack of manners. There's a lot of waste in the WJ, with people apparently concerned they wouldn't get their money's worth and piling on their plates massive quantities of food (I saw a gentleman with a salad piled at least 8 inches high! And unappealingly, I was on line to get hash browns behind a school age child who after piling on quite a few on his plate, decided he didn't want most of them and used his hand to crush them and throw them back on the serving plate--I passed on the hash browns that day!)
Room Service is uneven at best. Obviously, the system is over-stressed. During peak times, it took hours for lunch, dinner, and snacks. AND, if you order before midnight, but their delivery takes longer and goes past midnight, you will be charged a surcharge. It will be cold as well. Breakfast ordered the night before was the only successful room service, but the food wasn't great. A room service coffee service, however, was always good, hot, accurate, and encouraged!
I highly encourage buying the "Ultimate Package" for alcohol, if you want to drink. We were very happy with the value (it's hard to calculate exactly, but a few drinks a day seem to reach an appropriate amount to make it worthwhile) and, most importantly, the convenience was significant. Buy them when the cruise line has them on sale! It was less apparent that the other packages were value added. If you have a couple of teenagers who constantly are sucking down virgin Pina Coladas and Cokes, you're good to go. Otherwise, they may not be worthwhile.
The ship's bars are genuinely some of the better parts of the ship. We only had a bad experience with the service in the Hoof and Claw pub...ugh! The others all had great service, superior entertainment, and generally great drinks. The best views and quiet (during the day) are to be had from the Olive or Twist and the best bar in the ship (but, you have to enjoy or tolerate cigar smoke!) is the Connoisseur Club--cigar bar. Joao, there, is awesome, and they have the most high end liquor available. Speaking of that, it turns out that the bars (with the exception of the cigar bar) are rationed as to their premium liquor and so, the staff may tell you "they are out" when they actually aren't. If you enjoy a nicer Scotch or Bourbon, etc., your best bet may be to become "a regular" at one of the bars you enjoy and develop a relationship with your bartender. Add an occasional tip to your already charged 18% and you will find generous pours and plenty of "the good stuff" available.
Entertainment & Activities
Don't miss the shows! In general, they are all worth the time...our comedians were awesome, especially Gary Caouette and the music and variety shows all were outstanding. The two production shows, In the Air and Saturday Night Fever, were generally amazing--production was Las Vegas worthy. The aerialists in "In the Air" were extraordinary and the music of "Saturday Night Fever" is excellent, although the actual story line seems a bit of a downer for a cruise! There's always something going on in the ship and most of the activities were fun, it seemed. We attended the "International Wine Tasting" which was very nicely done. The outdoor activities are all good--teenage boys loved the slides and playing basketball and soccer (although the games that were advertised were poorly organized by the staff). A reminder: the "cool" stuff like the climbing wall and the Flowrider are just massively crowded except early in the morning. Our youngsters mostly liked the child H2O zone, but the water is cold for very young ones. The pool and outdoor hot tub are always crowded, it seems, but the Solarium is a wonderful refuge and the hot tubs there are great places to hang out. There did seem to be a theme, though, that if something didn't provide an upcharge to RCCL, it was neglected...the library, for instance, has become minimalistic, and the fitness area was a little "seedy," that is, the first elliptical machine, I tried to use, was broken, and the one next to it, was visibly worn, like some old gym. Of course, the spa area (which costs extra) was top-notch.
Ports & Shore Excursions
We actually left Galveston late (reason unknown, although a large number of passengers showed up more than an hour after final "all aboard") and that seemed to be a theme for each port of call--we were at least an hour late leaving every stop, which shortened time at every other location. A crew member told me that was because of the large number of passengers on RCCL sponsored excursions coming back late. Having said that, all the ports of call were wonderful....great weather except for a bit of wind at Costa Maya. We did NOT use RCCL to book excursions and were very happy with the results. I wouldn't unless one is seriously concerned about making it back on time (perhaps an extra long excursion in the 6-8 hour range). We had excellent results going with online booking direct to excursion operators at every location and would happily recommend each. In Costa Maya, we used Native Choice for a trip to Chacchoben Mayan ruins; at Cozumel, we booked a private catamaran (the Morningstar); went to Stingray City with Moby Dick tours in Cayman; and lastly, but not least, used Patrice Bailey's tours in Jamaica. All were superb and costs were extremely reasonable!
Mother Nature finally caught up with us and fogged in Galveston, making us a half day late in leaving the ship....best laid plans! The crew and staff were exceptional in feeding us (although my words above re: passengers applies with the WJ!) and letting us stay in cabins as long as possible. It broke down a bit, though, when instead of following the planned protocol, once the carry on folks left, RCCL simply opened the flood gates and let everyone leave at once. Of course, they were most concerned about their on-coming passengers, but it was a bit obvious that the sooner they could turn us over to the port the better. It taxed the gangways to the extreme and there were more than a few passengers feeling the effect of crowds, closed-in spaces and heat. Once in the terminal; however, kudos to the Galveston staff and, especially Customs & Immigration, who moved everyone along. Part of our party walked to the parking area and retrieved our cars (no porters were to be had--the crowds overwhelmed them!) and had us on the road within 90 mins.
Liberty and RCCL
Overall, an excellent cruise. The ship is clean and activities abound. Christmas aboard was well done. But, larger doesn't always translate to better. The concourse is always crowded. The staff and crew; however, were exceptional and couldn't have been better, but they are obviously tasked to the max by RCCL. Most apparent, RCCL is all about the upcharge. The idea that a cruise was the most economical vacation may be in jeopardy. If you want a "once in a lifetime" experience, you may need to spend more....suites, higher status in C&A, upcharges for food and activities, etc. Expecting too much at the "entry level" of cruising, along with the large crowds is a recipe for flaring tempers and unhappiness. I won't say we won't cruise again, but I'm less excited about them than I was before this trip.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Chacchoben Mayan RuinsExcellent trip...worth a look even if you've been to Tulum. Not too strenuous for folks if they can walk. Native Choice (Lorenzo) was an awesome, cost effective tour company. Highly recommend them for personal service and knowledge of the culture and history.View All 374 Chacchoben Mayan Ruins Reviews
Catamaran tourBooked the catamaran, MV Morningstar. 12 of us on a boat that could easily have taken 70. Crew was awesome and we snorkeled some of the best reef in Cozumel and then stopped for lunch with fresh ceviche and guac. Relaxing, fun, and actually very affordable. Highly recommended. Only complaint was a little difficulty getting back to cruise ship port (getting a taxi), but minor compared to the great day.View All 129 Catamaran tour Reviews
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