I used to live in Galveston (20 yrs ago) and cruised on Carnival a lot, and once on Royal from Houston. But this was my first after all that time. The thing that sticks with me the most is the unique, Texas-centric nature of this cruise that I enjoyed.
So happened that this cruise left on the first week of Mardi Gras on the island. Nice, because could explore the activities and parades. Sucks, hotels were 3-4x more expensive than usual and the Strand is behind a pay gate. Nevertheless, Galveston is a unique community that you should definitely make time for before or after your cruise. Note: although the shuttles and Lyft are about the same price, we took the shuttle to ensure the person taking us knew how to get around the island with all the road closures due to Mardi Gras.
Embarkation was great; we got to the port around 10:30, and being Emerald level, pretty much just walked up to the desk, and then they called us onboard just as soon as we sat in our designated area. There is a good amount of walking, though, including on ramps, so if you're mobility-impaired, you may want to get assistance. Disembarkation was also very smooth, left the ship when called, walked right up to luggage, and then pretty much right up to the customs officer. However, there was a long line for the people waiting for porter assistance with their luggage.
As I said, the ship was quite Texas (and American)-centric. Huge Texas flag, lots of Texas people onboard. American captain and cruise director (my first). I enjoyed the parades, dance parties, and other activities in the promenade. And the shows and comedy acts were incredible, everything I expect from Royal. The ice show was particularly spectacular; I watched it twice. Strangely, for such a large ship, the theater was never filled to capacity. Although I enjoyed the dance parties, since they were all in the promenade, it was difficult to get through the promenade during each event, and that was the best way (inside the ship) to get from bow to stern. I also couldn't imagine the noise in the cabins overlooking the promenade during these later-night parties. Lots of great activities to select from.
The Liberty makes use of the Royal app, but it's just for the cruise compass and dining reservations (not check-in). Theater reservations aren't available onboard either through the app or in-person. It was my first Royal to use the app, and it was so incredible for planning your day, especially as we didn't have to fight who would get the Cruise Compass. I understand that Royal ships are moving towards using the app primarily for activities, and the print Compass being something you opt into (yay!!! I dislike the paper waste).
We had My Time Dining, and trying to make reservations after the first day meant only times after 8 were available for reservations. However, if we just showed up without a reservation, we were often seated within 10 minutes. We had, again, the super dining service that makes me recommend Royal over all other lines. Because I have food allergies, they always ensured I had the same waitstaff every day, even if I wasn't in their section. This cruise was my first to get the beverage package, on sale for about $42 each. They also had an onboard special the first day for a Buy One Get One Free for the beverage packages. I usually don't drink enough to make it worth it, but for this discount. I will always get beverage package in the future, because most all of the bars had unique cocktails, and that let me explore cocktails I hadn't had before, and if I didn't like it, no biggie. And the cocktails in the bar menus all were $12 or cheaper, so all qualified for the beverage package.
All the staff were great. My one gripe was during the Crown and Anchor event with the engineer, hotel manager, cruise director, and captain. Even when someone asked a question directly of someone, the captain answered the question, and he often didn't actually answer the question asked.
As for shore excursions, we went through the ship for Honduras and Cozumel, but not Belize. Since Belize is a tender port, I recommend having a Royal shore excursion for that port. Otherwise, you have to line up starting at 6 am on the pool deck to get a tender ticket. Why it has to be that morning, and why you can't use some other method, like a reservation lottery, I don't know. Was very happy that we used Royal to go to Rio Secreto in Cozumel; we had a direct ferry from the cruise dock to Playa, and we were in Playa until late, and got back within 20 minutes of all-aboard. If on your own, you ferry to a city far away from Playa, so you'd have to get a taxi, and I would have been very nervous about timing given our timing.
We got enough cruise points to be Diamond level, and are excited for many more years with Royal. I always recommend Royal to everyone I talk to. I'd take this ship again as it was big, with lots of bars and activities, but still connected to the water, unlike the Quantum and Oasis classes.
However, this ship is set to be Amped soon, and it shows. Multiple elevator buttons didn't work, or randomly lit. Lots of worn furniture. Seats in the theater actually had their bottoms fall off. Should have probably been refreshed sooner.
Excellent cabin. Even though it's at a hallway intersection, we didn't have any noise until the last night. It's between two cabin decks so that greatly reduces possible noise. There was a great amount of storage, in the room, closet, and bathroom.
The bed area had two side tables and a small shelf above the head. It had a mirror, too, to make the room seem larger. There was a curtain that could be closed from the seating area, and the TV could be turned to be visible from the bed.
The seating area was fine. There was a loveseat, but no table. The desk/vanity was pretty standard. With the TV on the cabinet, it was off the desk surface which was quite long for a room this size. The closet was a good size; it had a drop-down rod to have 2 rods and maximize hanging space. The closet also included the safe and some shelves.
The bathroom had storage with a door, which is very nice. The shower had a hard door and had plenty of space to move around.
Best thing of all for this cabin: the muster station is in the dining room. With the cool Galveston weather, we were so comfortable, seated and warm.
Make sure to leave time to explore the unique nature of this island. It has Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn, the Strand, and the Seawall to explore.
The snorkeling is all on the other side of the island, so you have a long trip to and from. They did take us to three locations, so we got to explore different environments.View All 345 Snorkeling Reviews
Multiple locations to snorkel, pet some sharks and stingrays, and feed leaping fish. The included lunch was delicious, and got to explore Caye Caulker. The tour group was small, so it was easy to get around the boat and you didn't have to wait forever for people to get in and out of the boat.View All 204 Snorkeling Reviews
What a unique experience; I've been in lots of caverns before but never like that. The cruise tickets don't give enough information on the tickets. Attire: must have swimsuit (they give you a wetsuit). Nice to have good water shoes as you're walking on rocks and uneven terrain, but they have them for you as well (no extra charge). Time to wander Playa, so need good walking shoes and clothing. Get to Rio Secreto through the cruise ship, as you get to take a ferry that goes straight to the Playa and it takes a long time for the excursion as we got back to the ship only 20 mins before all-aboard.View All 158 Amazing River & Cavern Explore Reviews